Friday, November 13, 2020

150. Three-day Mini Trip to Western NC and Greenville, SC


During my drive home I started planning the following week in Pinehurst, given that Pat would not be flying down for another week, and quickly realized this would be a good opportunity for a mini trip.  Thinking about courses/clubs I wanted to revisit or see for the first time, it became clear that the western half of NC was the closest opportunity with a reasonable number of alternatives.  Nashville, TN would have offered more bucket list outstandings, but meant too long of a drive after this last week’s almost 1250 miles.  Mentally going through my “to-do” lists, a potential trip started coming together starting Tuesday 11/3 and returning Thursday 11/5 (it is difficult to find courses that are open on Mondays, and I had three guests scheduled to join me at CCNC on Friday).


I knew a return to Old Town Club (“OTC”) should be part of the trip and other areas of interest included the Blue Ridge Mountains in western NC, Charlotte, NC, and Greenville, SC.  On Sunday morning I outlined a possible trip and started emailing and calling pro shops and friends in these locations.  One piece of excellent news was a very positive weather forecast for the entire week in all of these locations.  I was surprised (but totally understood) to learn that many clubs had continued to ban unaccompanied guest and panelist play due to the volume of member play generated by COVID induced “cabin fever”.  All three courses I wanted to visit in Charlotte gave that response, so that location quickly dropped off my prospect list.  On the other hand, I received positive emails back from my friend Dunlop W. at OTC as well as the HP at Biltmore Forest CC in Asheville, NC, and these two provided a good starting point for the rest of the trip. 


Old Town Club, November 3, 2020:  Located in Winston-Salem, NC (about 1:45 from our Pinehurst home), OTC has become one of my favorite tracks in the world.  I first played it in 2006, prior to the restoration work completed by Coore-Crenshaw some 7 years later.  Starting in 2013 I have played it annually every fall after our return from MA except for 2015 (when I played in in May).  In all, this round was my 9th at OTC.  As prior posts #65, 104, and 140 describe some of those visits, I will keep this one brief.  


I played with Jim E., a former OTC President and a member of CCNC, and two other OTC members.  The weather was close to perfect and I had a 42 – 42 = 84.  All in all, a wonderful afternoon…course was in great shape and the company was outstanding.  After the round I had a 2:25 145-mile drive to Asheville, NC.  During the drive I was able to line up two courses to play on Thursday November 5th, thereby filling out my dance card for this mini trip.  I stayed up watching election returns which were looking good until about 10:30pm when several key states announced they were halting their counts until the next day.  Seemed a little strange and unusual and I failed to notice that all of these states were controlled by Democrats.  The rest is history as they say…apparently some dirty history (but I shall stop any political commentary at this point).


Biltmore Forest Country Club, November 4, 2020:  Back in the late 19th century, a young entrepreneur by the name of Cornelius Vanderbilt became involved with the shipping and railroad businesses.  For you kiddies, shipping and railroads were the internet in the 19th century.  He did OK in these businesses and ended up one of the richest people in the history of the USA.  Cornelius’ youngest grandson, George Washington Vanderbilt II, used his inheritance to build the Biltmore Estate near Asheville, NC.  That home originally sat on 125,000 acres, or about 196 square miles (equivalent to a square with 14 mile long sides!)….and totaled almost 179,000 sq. feet of living space.  To put the Biltmore Estate in perspective for you golfers…the home on the estate is almost three times the size of the clubhouse at Sleepy Hollow CC (NY) which of course was another Vanderbilt home.


His daughter was the original owner of Biltmore Forest Country Club which opened in 1922 with a course designed by Donald Ross.  Biltmore Forest has consistently appeared on GolfWeek’s USA Top 100 Classic course list since it was expanded from 100 to 200 courses…as well as my GolfWeek Merged USA Top 400 list (#361 in 2020).  Additionally it hosted the 1999 US Women’s Amateur and the 2013 US Women’s Mid-Amateur Championships.  From the tips it plays to 6750 yards (par 70).  This is a beautiful and outstanding club and course…and IMO, very underrated.  The property is filled with steep slopes which camouflage the actual slopes on the greens, and the greens in some ways reminded me of the “rolls” that Perry Maxwell built into many of Old Town’s greens.  The fairways have excellent width and there are options available on almost every hole.  Golf here is absolutely fun and this is certainly a course one could play every day. 


The clubhouse here has a wonderful 1920’s sense to it and feels as comfortable as an old shoe, even while being relatively formal…that is a tough combination.


I thought the best hole is #16, a 470 yards dogleg left par 4 with a Redan green protected by a sharp drop off on the left side and a green that slopes right to left much more than it looks.  The 9th hole is a more traditional par 3 Redan although at 161 yards is a bit short for this Template.


Overall, a true hidden gem.  It may be a little out of the way but absolutely worth the trip.


Speaking of trip, I had a 1:15 (53 mile) drive to my hotel in Greenville, SC…and when I arrived at the hotel, I discovered that I had left my golf bag and clubs at the bag drop rack at Biltmore Forest…thereby requiring an additional round trip to pick them up.  The body did not need a 159-mile trip this evening, but it got one.  


Green Valley Country Club, November 5, 2020:  Green Valley is located north of Greenville, SC, opened in 1958 and was designed by George Cobb…who also designed the Par 3 course at Augusta National GC and Quail Hollow GC (NC).  In 2001, the course was renovated by Tom Jackson.  In 1966 and 1967 Green Valley was included in the “USA 200 Toughest” lists published by Golf Digest (these being the first “Top” lists ever assembled and published).


Earlier during the trip I was told that and one time Green Valley had the highest number members who were also members of ANGC of any club in the south.  I also heard that at one point the club went through bankruptcy proceedings.  No way of knowing regarding either claim.  Based on my quick playing of the course, it may well have been fairly tough.  And there are clear signs that the club has seem better days.  In any case, I am afraid this is not a great track…but playing it means I only have 69 courses left to finish Golf Digest’s 1966 and 1967 200 Toughest.  


After the round I drove about 50 minutes north back into NC to play Bright’s Creek.


Bright’s Creek Club, November 5, 2020:  From 2000 through 2008 I was a member of Forest Creek Golf Club in Pinehurst (as well as CCNC).  Forest Creek has two Tom Fazio courses (Posts #65 and #141) and around 2005 the developer of Forest Creek opened another club called Bright’s Creek located in Hendersonville, NC (and also designed by Tom Fazio).  A good number of Forest Creek members bought land and joined Bright’s Creek and the two clubs were almost sister clubs (but no formal tie was ever implemented).  I never made the 3:45 trip to play and see Bright’s Creek but I remember people saying it was in a simply spectacular setting.


A knew that Bright’s Creek had closed its course and terminated its operations a few years ago, and then earlier this year learned that it had been purchased (I believe out of bankruptcy) and had reopened…and it turned out that a friend of mine (Mark L.) was a member and part of the group of three who had purchased the property.  Mark suggested that I play it and give him my thoughts and it geographically worked well with Green Valley for a day of this trip.  


The course has 19 holes (including a par 3 19th to resolve tied matches…Forest Creek’s South course does the same).  I had assumed that since it had just resumed operations this summer the course would be fairly empty this time of year…and that was a bad assumption.  As a result, I was only able to play 14 of the 19 holes (1-9, 12, 13, 17-19), and that took some mad scrambling around the property searching for open holes.  The DoG, Rich Albright was most helpful but with a dinner scheduled in Pinehurst that evening, I simply did not have the time to finish.  I will make the following points about the property.  First, my Forest Creek friends were not exaggerating…Bright’s Creek in in a simply spectacular setting, and this is a very good Fazio course.  The facilities also are first class.  What surprised me the most was its condition, which was very very good by any standard.  Given that for some 2-3 years there was only one maintenance person managing its upkeep, and that it has only been about 4 months since the club reopened, I was amazed at how good the overall condition of the property is today.  On the negative side, the course seemed to have too many long treks from green to next tee.  My next trek to western NC will for sure include a complete round at Bright’s Creek, and hopefully another 18 at Biltmore Forest.


After the round I had a quick lunch and then drove eastbound to Pinehurst barely in time for my scheduled dinner.


Course Count and Bucket Lists:  These recent rounds brought my total course count to 1,261 (or 22,205 golf holes).  This year I have played a total of 65 different courses (of which 52 were for the first time and 13 have been courses I had played previously). Bucket list status today is as follows:


High priority to play (total of 34 excluding “double counts”):

to reclimb World/USA Top 100 EVER for another time (4)

finish Golf Digest Top 200 USA EVER (8…none of which were ever USA Top 100)

finish Golf Week Top 100 Classic and Top 100 Modern EVER (11…none of which were ever Top 100 on “Merged” list)

finish all Women’s Major and Senior Major sites EVER (7),

finish all USGA Senior Am sites EVER (3)

finish World Golf Championships sites EVER (3)

Then 20 more to finish US Junior Championships EVER 

Then 67 to finish Golf Digest 1966/67 200 Toughest

Then 59 to finish USGA Women’s Am, Mid-Am, Senior Am and Girl’s Junior…to complete USGA current championships sites EVER.


TOTAL of 180 to go!!!!! any new ones that crop up…finish by end 2023?  Doable (but doubtful) if stay healthy!!  Need that vaccine!!

149. Drive from MA to NC



It was getting to be time for our annual pilgrimage south from MA to NC.  As we have for the past 10 years or so, I drive (with a car stuffed to the gills with our winter things) and always include stops for golf along the way.  Pat then flies down and I pick her up at Raleigh-Durham Airport.  This year I left our Milton MA home around 6:15am on Monday October 26.  The plan for day one included one stop to visit a friend in CT, then 18 holes in NJ, and then on to Philadelphia for dinner at my brother’s and my hotel west of Philadelphia.  This would be a long day including 402 miles of driving (assuming I never take a wrong turn) and 18 holes of golf.  


Stop #1 was to visit a great friend for the last sixty years, Dr. Barry C. and his wife Bobbi in their home in Westport, CT.  Barry and I played together on the Jamaica High School golf team in 1961 and 1962 and have remained close since.  In more recent decades he has been a leader in medical research while I fully retired some 12 years ago and traveled the world to play its great golf courses.  Although we had communicated frequently, over the past 5-6 years our opportunities for face to face interactions have been too limited (but did include a round at their CT course, Birchwood).  Barry has been a superb advisor to both Pat and me regarding medical issues that come with growing older…and no question in my mind that human beings do not come in a better package.


After some 90 minutes Barry had to get back to work and I headed to West Orange in central NJ…but on the way detoured to La Tourette Golf Course (to replace missing scorecard), a NYC muni in Staten Island that I played with fraternity brother Jim F. in 1970.  


Essex Fells Country Club, October 26, 2020:  Located next to West Orange, NJ, this part of NJ is headquarters for Seth Raynor country.  Within a few miles of each other are the following Raynor designed tracks:

                        Essex County Country Club (first course)

                        Essex County Country Club (second course---now Francis Byrne Golf Course)

                        Essex Fells Country Club

                        Montclair Golf Club (9 holes designed by Raynor and built by Banks)

                        Rock Spring Club


Essex Fells was incorporated in 1896 and hired Alex Findlay to design a 9-hole course totaling 1810 yards.  In the early 1920’s, Seth Raynor rerouted that nine and expanded the course to a full 18 holes of 6144 yards.  Today the course totals 6531 yards from the tips and is located on an excellent piece of land with good slopes making it difficult to read the greens.  However, in 1996 it had the misfortune of being “redesigned” by Rees Jones…and many of the Raynor characteristics are well obscured.  I thought the best holes are #3 (a downhill reverse Redan…although some would say a Redan cannot be downhill), the long par 3 10th (which may have been a Biarritz at one time), the 458-yard par4 8th, and the 448-yard uphill 16th.     The 12th fairway is filled with natural bumps and rolls…so flat lies are almost to find, but unfortunately the rest of the property lacks this characteristic. 


Overall a good but not great track.  I do plan to come back to this area to play Francis Byrne and Rock Spring, hopefully next year.  For now, I am left with 9 Raynor’s to go (out of 51):  Brookville (NY); Knollwood (NY); Blowing Rock (NC); Everglades (FL); Lake Wales (FL); Waialae (HI), Mid Pacific (HI); and Rock Spring and Francis Byrne in West Orange.  Hit the ball pretty well and had a 42 – 42 = 84.


One last note regarding Essex Fells…the term and concept “Mulligan” was either invented here or Winged Foot…both clubs claim credit.  No way to know which is the true answer, but I do know that Pat is my Mulli!!


After the round I was in the car and headed to that beautiful highway known as the New Jersey Turnpike on my way to Philadelphia and dinner at my brother’s.  This drive was a mere 101 miles and I arrived around 6:15pm.  There were four of us, Dave, his wife Rose Mary, and their son Sam.  Dave and I were relatively well behaved and avoided politics.  Was great to see all three of them.  


Drive to hotel was relatively short…32 miles (plus add 4 miles for one wrong turn).  Very long day…followed by lousy night of sleep (probably overtired), which should make Tom Doak’s greens at Stonewall-North extra impossible!


Stonewall-North, October 27, 2020:  Stonewall is a relatively new club (founded in the early 1990’s) about 45 miles WNW of Philadelphia with two Tom Doak designed tracks, Old and North.  Back in October 2014 I played the Old course, and decided to play the North course this trip.  The North has never been included on any well recognized “top 100/200/400” listing and it has not hosted any of the events I track.  Old hosted the 2016 US Mid-Am (with North co-hosting the stroke play qualifying rounds) and Old has been on the GW Merged USA Top 100 and GM USA Top 100. 


However, I actually liked North more than Old…it is certainly more fun and interesting, while Old is for sure more difficult.  North totals 6790 yards from the tips, Old totals 6980, and both are par 70’s.  My favorite holes on North are the par 5 3rd…where the tee shot must carry a very large mound  and then hopefully trundles down the downhill slope on the other side, the par 5 8th of 601 yards with a second shot that must carry a stone wall (otherwise known as a Stonewall), the short par 4 12th of 351 yards that doglegs left to a green that is somewhere between a Biarritz and a Double Plateau, and #15 a 395 yard uphill par 4 that is superbly well bunkered and whose green has a false front and right side (I three putted).


For sure the North offers more fairway width than the Old, as well as larger and more undulating greens than Old.  This makes the course a more demanding “thinking” course than Old…and means holes can play very differently with different pin placements.  To me those attributes make North the better track.


I was tired from yesterday’s long drive and lack of good sleep so I chose to not keep score.  But this is really a fine golf course…and I am surprised it has not made any listing.  If you come to Stonewall you will probably want to play Old…but if you become a regular here, I would think 2 of 3 rounds would be on North.


After the round I headed south.  I was scheduled to play two courses in Baltimore the next day, but Thursday looked like a washout all along the Mid-Atlantic coast.  Thursday I was scheduled to play Manor CC outside of Washington DC and then Birdwood in Charlottesville, VA…with Manor being of greater importance for my bucket lists.  So, as I started my southbound trip I set my GPS to Manor CC (in Rockville, MD) and called Manor’s pro shop.  My MAPS app was showing a 3:45 arrival and sunset was to be at 6:08.  I had been rained out of Manor a year earlier and could not play it due to COVID on my trip north in May…and did not want it to slip by again.  HP Mike Sullivan was not in and the assistant pro I spoke with said 2:20 would be tough for a full 18.  But I figured what did I have to lose?…if I could only play 16 or 17, then coming back for the one or two missing holes would be much easier than a full 18.  I arrived at Manor at 3:40pm and quickly grabbed a cart and made it to the first tee after (sort of) checking in with the pro shop.


Manor Country Club, October 27, 2020:  While Manor has never been included on a USA Top 100/200/400 listing, it has hosted two US Boy’s Junior Championships (1957 and 1971) and one Girl’s Junior Championship (1959).  The club was founded in 1922 and hired William Flynn to design 27 holes (an 18-hole Championship course and a 9-hole short course).  In 2005, the Championship course was restored by Arthur Hills.


I teed off on one and quickly played holes 1-6 before running into 3 groups playing holes 7-9.  As the seventh tee lies only 150 yards from the clubhouse, I drove over to the 10 tee and saw the back nine was wide open.  I completed the back nine in about 1:05 and then went over to the 7th tee to find holes 7-9 to be completely empty…and finished the round on hole #9 (best hole on the course and very similar to Oak Hill-East’s 9th hole) at 5:55pm…with 13 minutes to spare before sunset.  Truth of the matter is I had to play Manor too quickly to adequately evaluate it and did not keep score.  But based on my quick round, it is a very good but certainly not a great course.


I had scheduled dinner with Jason Mills (current HP at Congressional CC), who was an Ass’t Pro at Brookline two years ago.  We had dinner in Bethesda at a nice Italian restaurant.  Congressional’s Blue Course is undergoing a major renovation under the guidance of Andrew Green which should reopen in Spring 2021 which has to have been a wonderful experience for Jason.  Was great to catch up and see him doing well and growing into a very big job.


After dinner it was back to Rockville to my hotel.  A rushed but good day…36 holes plus some 198 miles of driving.  Tomorrow would be another 36 but not much driving.


Green Spring Valley Hunt Club, October 28, 2020:  I first learned of this club about a year ago when I saw that it had hosted the US Girl’s Junior Championship in 1999.  Last May I was hitting balls at CCNC’s practice range when a very well connected member and friend came by to say hello and I noticed his polo shirt had an unusual logo (fox’s head with the letters GSV) that I had never seen before, so I asked where it was from…and the answer was “Green Spring Valley in Baltimore”.  Further research revealed the club was founded in 1892 “to promote fox hunting”.  Golf was added in 1914 after two members contributed $4500 to finance the purchase of acreage sufficient for a nine-hole course designed by noted architect Tom Bendelow.  In 1930 one hole was eliminated and current holes #1 and #18 (more about them in a minute) were added to create a 10-hole track…and members would play #1, the remaining original 8 holes twice, and then #18 to complete an 18 hole round.  The 1930 changes were guided by another architect of some note, Herb Strong (Canterbury in OH, Engineers in NY, Guyan in WV).  Finally, in 1957 Robert Trent Jones eliminated one hole and added nine others to create today’s 18-hole course of 6623 yards.  Last year a new master plan developed by Tyler Rae (think Beverley CC and Skokie CC in IL, Cedar Rapids in IA, and Mountain Lake in FL) was approved by the club with implementation planned over the next few years.


I have played at a good number of old money golf clubs and country clubs over the years but this one may be the “WASPiest” of them all.  It is spread over what seemed to be some 7-10 different buildings with minimal signage, and GPS brought me to the wrong one…and there were not a lot of folks in evidence at 8am.  This place is deep, deep, old $$ Baltimore.  The golf course is as quaint and unusual as they come.  I have played a few courses that start with a par 3 including some very good ones (including England’s Royal Lytham & St Annes which has hosted The Open Championship some 11 times).  I have also played a few courses that finish on a par 3 (including Long Island’s brilliant Garden City Golf Club).  I should also add that both Royal Lytham and Garden City are mainstays on World Top 100 listings.  But until this day I had never even heard of a full length 18-hole golf course starting and ending with par 3’s.  Additionally, the stretch of holes from #7-#15 (9 consecutive holes) are all par 4’s.  Hardly conventional, but it works and the course is fun to play, although certainly not a “great track” (but hole #7 is quite good)…and just as certainly part of a great family club.  Glad I got to play it.


Baltimore Country Club-East Course, October 28, 2020:  BCC was founded in 1898 and located within the City of Baltimore in an area called Roland Park.  The following year BCC hosted the US Open.  By the 1920’s the club needed room for expansion and retained A. W. Tillinghast to design the East Course (opened in 1926 at its new second campus (known as Five Farms) located about 7 miles north of the Roland Park site.  In 1962, the Roland Park course was closed (more on that later) and a second course (“West”) designed by Ed Ault was opened at the northern site.


The East Course has hosted the 1928 PGA Championship, 1932 US Amateur, 1965 Walker Cup (the only Walker Cup Match to end in a tie), the 1988 US Women’s Open, and the Senior Players Championship in 2007-9.  It is a wonderful design on superb land with tons of elevation changes (and hence slope!).  In 1915 it was restored by Keith Foster.  This was my third visit to BCC’s East Course (prior two were in 1984 and 2013).  In 2013 I also played the three “remaining” holes at Roland during my quest to play all of the “still remaining” courses that have hosted a US Open.  I had learned that three original holes could still be seen behind the Roland Park Clubhouse, and receiving permission to play them prior to a wedding brunch we attend at Roland Park.  Am not sure that I would characterize Pat as being pleased by this, but by then I believe she understood whom she had married.  


The golf course really has no weak holes and the best of the bunch are two par 5’s (#5 and #14 which are 586 yards and 607 yards respectively) and the phenomenal 457-yard par 4 10th with a small green guarded short & left by a beautiful pond and wetlands.  Totaling 7181 yards with severe slopes and a par of 70, this is a big course for all but the PGA Tour.  It has not pierced World 100 lists in about the last 15 years, and has been rated by most around #60-#70 on USA Top 100 lists…which speaks loudly about the quality of golf courses in the USA and World in recent years.  If you get to Baltimore and secure an invite,,,make sure you accept it.


I played with Joe F. and Jim G. who were my hosts here back in 2013.  Told them no more trips to Baltimore for me until they get their butts up to Brookline.


After the round I headed back down to Rockville and my hotel there (remember...I was scheduled to play Manor CC the next morning, which continued to look like a weather washout.  I cancelled my game in Charlottesville for Thursday and planned an easy day driving from Washington to Williamsburg, VA.   Pat had booked a flight for Saturday November 7 from Boston to Raleigh and my host for golf in Virginia Beach suggested we play there Saturday 10/31 rather than the afternoon of Friday 10/30…given the amount of rain that was expected Thursday.  Sounded like a good plan to me.  I would then drive from Virginia Beach to Pinehurst Saturday afternoon and early evening.


NO GOLF!!!, October 29, 2020:  After rearranging my golf plans for Friday and Saturday, it was time to brave the heavy rains and head southeast.  Along the way I planned two stops to pick up missing scorecards.  Between the weather and convoluted stops for scorecards, the drive took much longer than expected and I arrived at Williamsburg around 5:00pm.  That left just enough time for a short nap before dinner with Hank W., a fellow Global Golf Centurions Club member who lives primarily in Williamsburg.  My body thanked me for no golf this day…but cursed me out for another long drive.


Hank and I had a very nice dinner at a local restaurant and I retired to get to bed early.  I was scheduled to play the next morning at the Green Course at Golden Horseshoe Golf Club, which is owned by the Williamsburg Resort.  I had played the Gold Course in 1984 and while the Green generally did not garner rave reviews, it had hosted the 1998 US Senior Women’s Amateur.  The question would be…given the rainfall on Thursday…would the course even be open on Friday.


Golden Horseshoe Golf Club--Green Course, October 30, 2020: I was up early and called the pro shop to make sure I could play…and then learned I had to be off before 9am as there was a charity outing with a shotgun start at noon.  Due to Friday’s very heavy rains, it was cart paths only which would mean my round would take a bit longer.  I grabbed a quick breakfast and got over to the Green course.  The pro reminded me about the cart path only rule (he didn’t have to…it was obvious that if you took a cart into any fairway it would immediately become mired or stuck in the mud).  I decided that since I was here and needed to play it, let’s just get it done.  


I have never played on a course that was wetter…there was casual water literally everywhere and no place to take complete relief (but at least the rain had stopped overnight).  The very definition of a quagmire.  I played from the lady’s tees as quickly as I could…helping matters by holing out with a 75-yard wedge on the par 4 third hole.  Otherwise, the round and the course were completely unremarkable.  Rees Jones designed it in 1991 (his father RTJ, Sr. had designed the Gold Course here).  I actually played fairly well (41 – 40 =81) but did not post a score given the condition of the course and the liberties I took with relief.  At one point I took a nasty slide while walking downhill…but luckily no damage done.  I completed the round and checked the course off my list around 11:50am…and headed back to the room for a good nap.


Hank had asked me to come over to their house in Williamsburg for dinner.   His wife Dixie is wonderful and the house is superb.  We had another good evening trading golf stories and political thoughts.   I remained optimistic about the election’s eventual results but it was clear to me that no one really had a handle on this one.


We agreed to leave for Virginia Beach (a 55-minute drive) around 8:30am and planned on playing at 10am, which worked well for my schedule.


Bayville Golf Club, October 31, 2020:  The drive was easy.  Bayville is a high-end club located just north of Virginia Beach and about 0.5 miles east of the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.  It opened in 1995 having been molded into its current form from its predecessor dairy farm by Tom Marzorf of Tom Fazio’s shop.  While it has not appeared on a USA Top 100, it did host the 2011 US Women’s Mid  Amateur Championship.  


After hitting a few balls we teed off on #13. I thought the back nine was very very good…and in particular liked the par 5 15th hole (even though I butchered it after three very good shots).  I was fairly disappointed by two holes on the eastern end of the property (#6 and #7).  The 6th is a par 5 of 545 yards that is slightly uphill with a slight turn right and a tough semi-blind tee shot (a very good start), but when you get to the crest of the hill, the rest of the hole simply looks wide open and frankly a bit ordinary/boring…almost as if Marzorf had run out of ideas at this point.  To a somewhat lesser degree the same feels true on the par 4 478-yard 7th hole.  I cannot remember any two holes like these that emanated from Fazio’s organization.


Otherwise, I thought it was an excellent course.  It is very exposed to the wind which swirls more than one would expect at a location like this, and some of the views are compelling.  Its conditioning was very good.  The par 72 plays to 7138 yards from the tips.  I had a decent 43 – 43 = 86 marred by mental errors on #15 and #9 that resulted in ugly double bogeys.


Wanting to do most of the trip to Pinehurst in daylight (this was the last day of DST), I grabbed a quick sandwich for the road, profusely thanked Hank for a very special 2+ days and headed west for the Sandhills.  I arrived home around 6:15pm and got busy reopening the house and unloading the car before collapsing in bed around 11:30pm.


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.



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!!