2013 in Review

It was a banner year for me, as I played a ton of golf, was able to get on a couple of my bucket list courses and saw my game improve a lot (and also crash to the ground a lot).

Looks like this year was 7 posts less than 2012.  That’s terrible and I need to step it up.  I think my reviews nowadays are a lot more detailed, so it’s the whole quality over quantity argument.  For the sake of suspense, I did play White Clay Creek at the end of the season and will be posting a hole by hole review shortly.  There were a few times I was playing in a tournament or couldn’t otherwise get enough photos for a worthwhile review, so I’ll touch on a couple of those places here.

At any rate, 2013 was a great year for golf.  (Most of) the courses were a lot of fun and this year gave us the U.S. Open in our backyard.  From a game perspective, it was my best scoring year by far, yet also pretty volatile at times.  I’m looking to take things to the next level (for me), so a steady stream of lessons and practice is in my future.  It’s time to get better, but more importantly, stay consistent.

Course wise, I played at a good number of Philly area courses I had not yet seen and I expect that trend to continue.  I hope to see everyone else out there and from the words of my favorite caddie: more strokes means more golf!

Here are some of the 2013 highlights:

States played in:

Arizona
California
Connecticut
Delaware
Florida
Georgia
New Jersey
Pennsylvania
South Carolina
Texas

Favorite round locally at a course I played for the first time

Atlantic City Country Club.  This place is special and I have a feeling that Tom Doak’s recent restoration work went a long way in helping things get better.  A unique setting with an interesting classic design that straddles the line nicely between challenging and fun.  The clubhouse is one of the best for a public course on the eastern sea board.

Honorable mention goes to Hershey Links.  I can’t believe it is now NLE, but it sure did a lot of things right.  It’s a shame.  For courses that still exist, I’ll go with Running Deer.  I’m genuinely excited about the design as the par 4’s and 5’s have lots of character and I really like the bunkers and waste areas eating into the fairways, creating some nice shapes.  I can see myself getting there a few times next year.

Favorite Philly Round this Year:

Glen Mills.  Maybe it was the perfect fall day, maybe it was the company, maybe it was my score, but every time I play here it’s a special round I remember fondly.  It’s my favorite for a reason.

Honorable mention is another shocker, Jeffersonville.  The slope rating went up, conditions are even better and everything I like about the course remains intact: classic Ross design, reasonable green fees, friendly staff and am able to breeze through my rounds in no time, yet slow enough to enjoy.

And other than the two shoe ins that win me over every season, the nod here goes to, Pilgrim’s Oak.  It’s worth the drive down there.  One of the best farmland courses in the Northeast.

Most Improved Course:

Broad Run.  After a rough few seasons, conditions have improved, the clubhouse is some where you want to hang out and pace of play has sped up.  Playing here this season was like when I first found the place many moons ago and with the great views and fun par 5’s, I wouldn’t hesitate putting this back on my regular rotation.

Renewed love affair at a Philly course at one of the more fun rounds of the season:

Wyncote.  July 4th weekend and after a morning round at Pilgrim’s Oak, me and my friend met up with two of our friends for a match play that came down to the last putt on the Eighteenth.  At the height of the season, playing with good friends, lots of laughs and golf in there some where, Wyncote delivered big time.  After feeling some what chilly on the place for a while, I really liked the design this time around.

Biggest Course Disappointment:

Roycebrook.  I wasn’t too keen on the design and the excessive green fee left a sour taste.  It just felt like the design was trying to do too much when it has the potential to be a lot more, maybe with a chainsaw and grass seed.

They should consider closing to renovate and/or sell:

Ramblewood.  It’s painful, because the design is actually decent and a lot more challenging than it lets on, but there’s just so much wrong here.  Conditions are abysmal.  Pace of play is excruciatingly slow and the rangers are clueless.  I played there this season and two photos into the round, I realized it wasn’t worth reviewing the course.  The group in front of us took forever and as the ranger watched EVERYONE in my group wait to hit their ball from the fairway for 10 minutes, he told us to pick up the pace.  I asked him how that’s possible when he saw we were waiting on the group ahead of us, but he just repeated his request.  I then asked him where the group was two ahead of us, so he could piece together where the gap was, but he just said the fairway of the next hole, even though that hole was a par 3.  At any rate, they get a ton of play, so I’m not sure why things are as bad as they are.  Things really need to drastically improve there.

Graduated from a nice value to really overpriced with no change whatsoever to course conditions or service:

Pickering Valley.  Unless you walk nine holes during the week, let me save you money by telling you to avoid playing here.  The cashier lady hates everyone, conditions are not good, trees are overgrown and affect play and the design has always been like vegetable lasagna.  What was once a nice place to get a practice round in on the cheap has become the FDR of the ‘burbs.

Courses I played and loved but didn’t review because of technical issues

Unfortunately, this list is long this year.

Local

Middletown CC.  In Bucks county, this course is set on hilly terrain and features very slick greens.  I really liked the lay out, but had my worst round of the year by far here.  I simply had no semblance of a swing, and this course will make you pay with its tree lined fairways and forced carries.  Conditions were nice and other than a few spots where the holes were bunched up and it felt like everyone was hitting into everyone else, was a nice play with some very intriguing greens.

Connecticut

Lyman Orchards: Very challenging, with two courses and another nine holer, conditions were great and the build your own Bloody Mary bar was a nice touch.  Lots of hills and the forced carry tee shot on the Third is killer.

Florida

Grand Cypress- New:  In the Orlando area, Grand Cypress is a golf resort that is rather nice, but we stopped in to play the New course, which is designed by Jack Nicklaus as his ode to the Old Course at St. Andrews.  I really wanted to review the course, but I was playing with someone I just met and we were having a blast and I kept forgetting to take photos.  I’d say this is one of Nicklaus’ more accessible courses to golfers of all skill levels, yet there was a lot to like about it.  Of course I striped my tee shot at the Road Hole.  I’d recommend playing here as it is one of the highly regarded resorts in Orlando.

Championsgate:  I played both the International and National courses.  Greg Norman designed both.  I liked the International better, as conditions were better and it was more challenging.  The National was decent, but there were a few holes that seemed bizarre.

Georgia

Heritage Links.  In North Atlanta is a nice course with different sets of nine holes with different personalities.  Lots of hills and trees, well maintained and enough diversity and challenge to keep you coming back.

Texas

Cypresswood-Traditions:  A few minutes away from the Houston airport (Bush), this course came highly recommended and did not disappoint.  I had one of my best rounds of the season here, but I really liked the design, which felt a lot like Hilton Head National.  This was a speed round, so photos never happened.

Non-Philly Courses Awards Section

Best Non-Philly Course played this year

Yale:  Simply put, this course personified for me what golf should be.

Honorable Mention here is easy: Harbour Town.  One of the best designed courses I’ve played; I don’t think I’ve ever played a course where the design made you think so much about how to approach each hole.

Best Non-Philly Golf Value this year:

Hilton Head National.  I played here for a song and it was very inch as good as some of the heavy weights where the green fees are triple what they are here.  I will be back.

We have a tie here, as Rustic Canyon is probably one of the best values in the country, with a superbly designed course.

And of course, we have to get into the personal golf milestones section…

Best shot of the year:

The shot at the 196 yard par 3 Eighth at Atlantic City Country Club, where the wind was gusting against us and I was able to hit a great cut shot to within 3 feet for a birdie.

Honorable mention goes to the 235 yard par 3 Seventh at Phoenixville CC, where I hit a 4W dead straight to the hole, landing 4 feet from the pin.

Finally, Driver once again shined for me this season.  Lots of those shots are sticking with me in the memory book.

Worst shot of the year:

At Lyman Orchards in Connecticut, I was in a tournament and one of the first to tee off.  It was a non shot really, as I completely whiffed, in front of everyone.  Dead silence too.  Driver was not shining at that moment for sure.

Honorable mention goes to my 4 hybrid.  I’ve changed that club a few times and have had some great shots that really stick out, but it has definitely been the sore spot in my bag this season.

Wish list for next season:

These are (most of) the places on my list next year that I have yet to play.  

Bethpage Black (and likely Red as well)
Pinehurst No. 2
Greenbrier
Bedford Springs
Shadow Creek
Shore Gate
French Creek
Back Creek
Honeybrook
Bandon Dunes
Berkleigh

And these will always be on my list, just waiting for the opportunity to present itself:

Augusta National
Cypress Point
Pine Valley
Merion East
Sand Hills
Oakmont

By no means an exclusive list.  

Happy New Year to all and here’s to hitting ’em straight in 2014!  

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