2021 Preview

“The Dude abides.” Jeffrey Lebowski

I used to hate flying. Dreaded it. Yet when I moved out to the East coast, I had to do it more and more to see family, and then eventually, for work. The turbulence, the lack of control, the terrifying possibilities, the uncertainty of what was actually going on as we hurtled thousands of feet above, it was all a lot to handle. I’ve gone through all the stages. The panicked, micro analyzing every noise and movement and cloud pattern, making sure every second of the flight was accounted for; the drowsy flyer, loading up on Dramamine and half asleep most of the time, dulling the nerves and anything else; the drinker, passing the time easier; the workaholic, typing feverishly and ignoring the situation completely, I could go on. Yet at some point, I just got used to it. In fact, I started to enjoy it. The solitude, the views, the time to myself. It actually became comfortable. And as the years went by, I developed military precision habits that made flying as seamless as possible. It got to where I’d start to look forward to the whole thing if I ended up not flying for a bit. There was always a tinge of excitement as the plane surged forward, faster and faster, noisier, slowly rising into the air then much steeper, up and up, the world below becoming smaller and smaller until that quiet pervaded, a rushing of air becoming the ambiance. Then, the anticipation of landing, being some where else, getting your bearings. There was a comfort to the whole thing.

I certainly wasn’t alone. There’s a whole sub culture of serial travelers, many doing it a lot more and longer than I. You could spot these people though. For me, the big give away was always . . . how comfortable they looked. You get to be away from home so often, you have to make yourself at home where you are. You start to become unaffected by the travel altogether, and, eventually, relax.

Jackson Hole, 2012

There are things I miss about it. Random conversations with people, from places all over, going to places all over, some I had never seen or may never see. Enjoyable discussions, meaningful some times, yet never seeing them again. Trying different restaurants and landmark dishes or drinks. Even dumb little things like having the TV to yourself.

And of course, playing golf at a lot of different places.

Despite its benefits, there are things I certainly don’t miss about it. Cancelled/delayed flights, screwing up entire itineraries in a flash. Crappy hotel rooms. You learn quickly that room price or hotel name have very little to do with it. Consistency is extremely tough to come by. Boredom. There’s a lot of down time no matter how you slice it. There’s only so many times you can eat, drink, do things on your phone or read.

But the worst of it is – being away from home. Life goes on without you. You miss it. This time last year, I was traveling more than ever and the schedule was getting longer and longer, booked into May. Then COVID hit and it all went away. A sea of change for us all.

Indeed, 2021 looks like a year of change. The first two rounds of the year are already in the books. Both local. The inaugural round took place at my old friend, Jeffersonville. I didn’t get there last season so I made that right. With Pinehurst still very much in my mind, the course is now full of Ross character. Its mounds and bunkering, the greens and the traits Ross instilled in a lot of his courses. I was paired with a few guys that had played the course for decades and we reminisced about how far the course has come over the years. Talk about change. I then played Downingtown, a George Fazio design that Ron Jaworski made part of his portfolio a while ago. Lots of tree work was done, also looked like the bunkers have been touched up. A fully private course years ago, it has learned to adapt as it needed to. The clubhouse looks like it has been remodeled, the practice area revamped, a strong local following, things seem to be looking good. Change for the better. I haven’t been there in years, but Downingtown still doesn’t get talked about enough. Technically a “modern” course based on the year it was built but playing very much like a classic parkland, it’s a very walkable course built in the 1960’s and an example that creativity in design was alive and well in a time some deem the dark ages of course architecture. By a Fazio. Gil Hanse worked on it in 2006 as well, updating several features. A course you can play that breaks some of the generalities out there about eras and individuals of course design, as well as a great walk. Both courses public, both architecturally interesting. These were a couple of the courses Golfadelphia started with and will always return to and never tire of. Because along with everything else, they change. And my experiences and insight change, which then changes my perceptions there. And that my friends, is one of my favorite things about golf course design. Things are always fresh and new, because of that change. Change can be good.

The Fourth at Jeffersonville

Donny, you’re out of your element.” – Walter Sobchak

And talk about change. The driver is back in a big way and shot my first 39 for nine holes. A welcome change indeed.

What a difference a year makes. It’s almost been a year since I’ve been on a plane and even when things normalize a little, who knows how things will return. As most of these Preview posts go, I have no travel plans at the moment. There’s a lot of “let’s see what happens later in the year,” but that’s about it. I’ll say this much. Whether it’s driving or flying, I’ll be going some where. It’s the travel fix. While it’s great being at home a lot more and being present here, there’s always a little of me out there. On the road, in the air; out there, that I need to say hi to every now and then.

“Some times you eat the bar and sometimes, well, the bar eats you.” – The Stranger.

More change. Cobb’s Creek is now closed as it goes through the much anticipated restoration that will take a few years to complete. Part of me will miss the old Cobb’s. Always able to get on and play the holes as the walk took me, there was a casual camaraderie present there. Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled for the restoration and can’t wait to see it. It will hopefully get the attention it deserves and will once again rise to one of the better public courses in the country. That’s something I’ve hoped happened for years and years. With that attention will come a more crowded tee sheet and more formality. It comes with the territory. It’s time to share Cobb’s with everyone else. The City Line driving range, where I went for the last 13 years, is now gone as well, as it’s part of the course and will be subsumed into the restoration. The place was on its last legs for years. The upstairs hitting bays closed probably due to structural issues, the batting cages dilapidated and long gone, the miniature golf course refreshed some what, the guys there were always nice to talk to, it was some where I always relaxed as I hit thousands and thousands of balls over the years. I’m going to miss that fucking place.

More change. As mentioned in the 2020 Recap, a new home course awaits. Some where new to learn about, bond with. Watch my wife and kids learn and hopefully, learn to love, the game. Then, my ultimate vision takes place; every vacation becomes a golf vacation!

If you will it, Dude, it is no dream.” – Walter Sobchak, quoting Theodore Herzl (as he brings a fucking Pomeranian bowling).

Change breeds creativity and the future is as uncertain as the present. Some times you can will that change. Change for the better. That’s the plan this year. Change means getting out of your comfort zone, pushing yourself. I was sure out of my comfort zone last year, golf wise. Yet all that strife was for a purpose. Change is believing in it, seeing yourself there – working at it. I think it’s time and I think I now know how to do it. Single digit handicap awaits. You gotta be the change you want to see! For me, that means being a lot more . . . mindful during my rounds. I focus way too much on how I’m swinging during my rounds and not a whole lot on scoring. Situational awareness, paying a lot more attention how to manage the course, aiming away from the pin, checking for acceptable or preferable miss areas, it’s all part of it. Also, for the first time maybe ever, I have confidence in my swing and know exactly how I’m doing it. So it’ll be fun to take on trying to bring about that change. I’ll see how close I can get at least. Change with purpose.

Golf courses change, golf swings change, golf handicaps change; it all changes. From the time this site started, it too has changed. I’m sure it’ll keep changing but for now, who knows. I kinda like it how it is. As the golf season is still a few months away, vaccines are still rolling out and a new administration was just installed, we’re certainly at the cusp of a sizable amount of change. But life is change and as things shift, disappear, reappear and transform, you strive for that change to lead to bigger and better things. The thing about traveling, you’re in constant change. The more you do it, the more comfortable you are with all those weird frequent changes to your setting, out of necessity and a knowing flexibility, to embrace it. You’ll get back home eventually, so might as well enjoy the ride.

Enjoying the ride

“Obviously you’re not a golfer.” – Jeffrey Lebowski

A few things we can count on (maybe, or not at all) this year but are on my radar.

  • Safe to say that even though last year a lot of local courses were visited, there are still many many more to get to.
  • Some of these reviews are old. Like, close to +8 years ago. Time for some updating!
  • Pinehurst. Similar to Bandon, a comprehensive review coming of my thoughts down there.
  • Pinehurst. I liked it so much I need to get back ASAP. Unlike Bandon, it’s relatively easy for me to get to.
  • I’m toying with some different article ideas. Let’s just say I have stories. And I think many would enjoy those stories. So maybe it’s time to tell some stories.
  • With the way things are looking, I could see getting to a few destinations within driving distance I’ve been meaning to get to for a while this year. Driving distance is all relative, but a few that come to mind that have courses I’d like to get to include Pittsburgh, Long Island, Boston (could fit in with that elusive Maine/Rhode Island trip that I’ve had planned the last 18 years), Columbus, Ohio, Charleston . . . Cabot???
  • A few things waiting in the bull pen depending on how things shake out the next couple months. Vegas, Michigan, Streamsong, Big Cedar, Canadian Western Rockies.
  • Yeah, that’s right, Canada. Golfadelphia has its sights set. LOTS of heavily underrated golf up there. I want in. If not possible this year, soon.
  • There are random courses I want to get to as well. Some have gained traction while others have remained under the radar but they have something unique or notable that interests me. Maybe it’s a certain architect, maybe it’s a particular trait emphasized, maybe it’s an era or concept, but the journey continues to keep learning, which thankfully will never end.
  • As mentioned, Golfadelphia finds a new home course. More to come on that front.
  • Maine and Rhode Island? Will this be the year?

“I can’t be worrying about that shit. Life goes on, man.” – Jeffrey Lebowski

By the way, it happened randomly but once I started quoting from it, I couldn’t stop. Here’s to one of the most quotable movies of all time, “The Big Lebowski.” Just felt like I owed it to all of us.

Change is nothing new but this year feels like it is upon us in spades. We look to the golf courses, whom have weathered and embraced change for centuries. And will continue doing so after we’re gone and generations after us walk their fairways. Those generations and those after them, falling in love with the game, appreciating its sanctity in all its forms and, God willing, quoting the Dude.

See you all out there on the fairways, friends . . . abiding.

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