I look at this annual post as more of a State of the Union now, for a number of reasons. 15 course reviews from last year will take some time, I’d estimate reviews of courses I play this year will start posting in April (??). Also, I never know what my plans are for the year. Some of it is laziness, but some of it is also keeping things open and flexible as possible to see what ends up happening, well, organically.
This January thus far has been decent for golf. My first round was at Dauphin Highlands in Harrisburg, where I was able to get nine holes in before the sun went down. First golf holes of the decade. I’ll need to get back when there’s better light for photos, but I enjoyed it a lot. Varied terrain, strategic issues on each hole and nice greens. $19, with a bucket of balls. I’ll take that any time. As I was walking one of the fairways, I realized how much I love off season golf. The courses are usually empty and those out there are typically as die hard about golf as me, conditions are always a gamble but it never matters; you feel you’re playing with house money just being out there this time of year. I start mapping out how this is the season I cut my handicap in half, I make resolutions about course management, I promise to start hitting fades instead of chasing those lazy draws. It’s going to be glorious. I will take this winter to turn into a revitilized, new and improved, golf assassin.
Then I start playing and the scores don’t go down and I tell myself not to worry; I’ll get it figured out once the season starts. Rinse and repeat each year.
I’ll get into this in more detail in my decade-in-review article (coming soon-ish), but for me golf is a lot more than the scorecard. First off, it has to be or I’d be miserable. It eases. It’s an elixir. It brings peace, joy, focus and yes, anger. This broad range of emotions, with nature, on works of art. All of it interacting together. And it’s about learning. I love that aspect. The identity of the course, its character, how it sets itself apart, what it does well, how you interact with it; each course evokes something unique. I love trying to get to the heart of it. Aristotle said happiness is the pursuit of knowledge. I think he was on to something.
So while I whince about missed putts and clubs that have clearly become defective, deep down I know there are much larger more important reasons I am out there. It’s been that way for a while and it’ll be that way for a long time. I’m enjoying the ride and am excited to see what’s next. Even during those times I have no idea what next is. Some times, the thrill of that mystery is a distinct joy worth staying on for a while.
No matter your plans or why you’re out there, my message for this State of the Union is, play it all. Not just the well known, or the luxurious, or the exclusive, or the “good” designs; play it all. One of the cardinal sins as far as I’m concerned are those that refuse to play a course based on preconceived notions. Play it all, experience it all. Play the munis, not just the trendy ones designed by the famous architect. Play the ones that take you out of your comfort level. Play nine holes, twelve holes, two holes. Play alternate shot, play without keeping score, play tournaments, play with five clubs. Play in crappy weather, crappy conditions, and when your swing is crappy. Play the “bad” designs. It’s all part of the experience and you learn after every round, so play it all. The game is so much more versatile and is different for us all, so try it all. You’ll never know what speaks to you or what you know you don’t like until you play it.
More philosophically, this journey is about living, and none of us know how much longer that is. I was sitting on a tarmac in Phoenix yesterday when I learned Kobe Bryant, his daughter and others were killed in a helicopter accident. It’s beyond tragic, a basketball legend who had so many chapters left to write, a family to watch grow. The others killed, all with lives cut short, never realizing waking up it would all be over in a few hours. I’m not a Lakers fan. While Kobe went to high school where I live and he’s revered here, I rooted against him his entire career as a Clippers and Sixers fan. Yet, I always appreciated his greatness. In Bill Simmons’ “Book of Basketball,” he creates this scenario where aliens come to Earth and challenge us to a game of basketball to determine the fate of the world. Simmons picked Kobe, characterizing him as the player you wanted when you absolutely positively had to win a game. I couldn’t agree more. Here’s the thing. I didn’t know Kobe and probably would never met him, but he was supposed to grow old alongside me, all of us, as his legend grew, his kids grew, my kids grew. He was of my era, formed it in many ways and as such someone I assumed would always be there to preserve that era. Now that he’s gone, it’s an awful, upsetting grave reminder that death calls on us all, when it does. As death smiles upon us, all there is to do is smile back. Do what you love, spend time with those you love. Golf is a big part of that for me.
I was golfing with a guy who had come across my site last season and he asked me if I ever considered changing the name from Golfadelphia since so many of my reviews are of courses in other cities and areas. Ouch. I said I had not considered it, mainly because I like the name and hope that it sticks with people who see it. I think it’s also because I can’t think of a better name. But the more I thought about it, it’s more sentimental than that. Philadelphia is where I’ve lived for almost 20 years but more importantly, is where I fell in love with the game. More on this in my decade article coming, but from Cobb’s Creek to Jeffersonville to Wyncote to Glen Mills to Lederach to Walnut Lane and all the other public courses in the area, I came to see the rich diversity of the game and how I developed a relationship with each course. Then I’d go back to California, golf with my dad at different courses and see completely different personalities with the courses out there. Then I started golfing in different areas when I travelled and noticed the same. The land, the area, the designer, the people; even the culture, form that personality of the course. Since it’s so distinct and location based, getting to so many different places and experiencing it is all part of the adventure and learning process. From when I’m able to set the tee time to the point where I put the scorecard in my famous in-bin on my dresser, each journey is a different experience and I relish it all. So while I golf all over, most of my golf is here, here is what inspired me in the beginning and here is what keeps inspiring me, familiar courses and new ones alike. So Golfadelphia it is.
This preview is late because of travel. California. Courses were played, stories were made, including a caddie who started hitting shots with my clubs, sight unseen. No asking, just took my driver or iron from me when I was done with my shot, and hit one himself. I thought it was a club tradition or something. I didn’t care. He was a good caddie and we finished the round in a little over two hours, so no worries. He fixed my swing too so now I want to hire him for all my rounds. He can hit any club any time as a bonus. Stories were made. I had to play behind a fivesome of beginner women some where else. They were surprisingly fast. Yet during that round, I came across a Dye template hole. I’m wondering if it’s the only one out there. Stories were made. I had to wait until the green cleared on a couple par 5’s some where else because I was going for it in two. They were in my range. I could feel the judgment in the group behind me. I prayed I didn’t become a cautionary tale, or a joke at the 19th hole, how some guy topped his 3 wood when he wanted the green to clear. I some how hit the shots. I wonder if they noticed. Stories (might have) been made. Great courses were played. More Pete Dye as he just passed and there’s so much of his work in need of exploration. Due to the back log, you’ll probably hear about it in 2021, maybe even 2022.
From what I do know, I can say that it should be another fun and exciting year for Golfadelphia. New courses will be played and a couple different and new things will be happening. Through good swings and bad, I’ll be out there. Learning. Laughing. Swearing. Meditating. Experiencing it all and – playing it all. Smiling back.
A few things to look out for this year:
- More California. I’m from there, so a couple visits are already in the ledger. See above.
- Woodcrest was finally played last year, so more of the locals I’ve been promising to get to. This may be the year I get to Royal Manchester, Bensalem and Reading. I also want to get to the new course in Delaware, The Links at St. Anne’s.
- Maine and Rhode Island this year; I really mean it!
- I think it’s time for Pinehurst and some of the courses in the area.
- Unfortunately, this 50 states thing isn’t going to happen organically, so time to get off the couch and get it done!
- Some of you have reached out and asked for reviews of certain courses. I will get to them. In fact, I have already played one of them. Golfadelphia for the people!
- Long Island classics.
- A new mission will be unveiled. It’s local. And I almost have it accomplished.
- I’m getting fired up writing this. More more more!
- I break 80!
- I play 36 at Friar’s Head with Bill Coore and he talks shop the entire time!
- “Golfadelphia – Behind The Bogeys”. Book hits stores and sites!
- If I’m not going to do things in the preview as seems to happen every year, they might as well be lofty.
Another swing, another hole, another round, another season, another decade. We’re now in the roaring 20’s, so make it all count. Who knows, after this decade, Golfaglobal/Globaldelphia/Golf Country USA (I told you Golfadelphia is the best I can think of) may be in effect. Regardless, I’ll see you out there soon, friend.