I like courses that give you a chance at the old hole in 1. And why not? There are very few things the average hacker can hang their hat on in this game. A hole on 1 is one of those things that will always be yours; your story, your big moment, where all the hours, frustration and struggling are worth it. Your lifetime pass to this game, always able to remember that shot when you need to think about better times. And those par 3’s where I’m on a tee and have a chance, standing over my ball, before it all goes wrong, I have a glimmer of, hope. – Golfadelphia (Paxon Hollow- 2011)
Driving back from the range, I felt like I could rip the steering wheel clean off and throw it out the window. I could then just slam the gas to the floor and let the car go where it will. It’s not all that different how life feels some of the time anyways. I couldn’t hit the ball. It had been that way for a while and I wondered if I only stuck with the game because of my friends. It was more an obsessive puzzle than anything close to leisure, yet I couldn’t pull myself away. I couldn’t find a golf pro and wasn’t sure where to look. The couple pros that I had taken lessons from seemed indifferent and offered the same tips I read about in the magazines. I had no idea what a good lesson was or what I was supposed to be learning. At some point, I did have enough. I drafted, or at least thought up, my own declaration of independence. I’d do one of those Golftec packages and if I didn’t improve enough to avoid going insane, I’d quit the game. With our first kid on the way, I wasn’t sure I’d have enough time for it besides.
The Golftec lessons weren’t all that helpful. They’d show me a video of Bubba and tell me I had to move like him. They told me I had to stay “on plane” but I couldn’t figure out what the hell that meant, no matter how many times or ways I asked. The instructor kept making me hit my 6 iron, the club I hated most in my bag. At one point, I think he told me I was his worst student (he said it all diplomatic; I was the worst at improving). I didn’t mind. I thought he was the worst instructor in the history of the universe. I started looking up tennis clubs to join. Then, I flipped the switch. The next lesson, I told my instructor I wanted to focus on driver. I started taking more control over the lessons. I started to understand about the swing plane. I started to actually hit the ball better. I no longer wanted to meet the instructor in the parking lot after the lesson.
We went on a Babymoon as about to be parents are wont to do. To Hershey. I golfed with a guy that had a Guinness driver head cover and it’s still the coolest head cover I’ve ever seen. I didn’t humiliate myself all that much. In fact, I played alright. As my wife and I tried to think of what to name our baby, memories of the round coated the evening in blissful satisfaction. Now the baby was days away. I played some where close so I could get home in a hurry. I still remember the drive at Walnut Lane. It was actually. . . pretty good. That was it, the game was here to stay, as was my steering wheel. This was the beginning.
About a year later, there were only two of us left. A group of friends that would normally take up two or three tee times then would stay at the clubhouse afterwards had some how dwindled to just us. No matter, it was actually easier to play more golf that way. This is when I started to notice course architecture. This is when I wrote my first Yelp review of a course and my friend told me it was actually pretty good. This is when all that Golftec stuff finally settled in and started making sense. And . . . this is when my friend moved to New York. It was just me now. I didn’t know what to do. It certainly felt like the beginning of the end.
And it really was, a glorious day. It began extremely early, as the first one at the airport in the morning, before staff, before any other traveler, was me, with two hours of sleep under my belt and more curious what the plane was going to look like for the ultra short flight over the Sierra Nevada mountains and into the Silicon Valley. And the flight was glorious, a clear and scenic morn, watching the sun rise against the snow capped Sierra Nevada range flying west until we reached the ocean, then descending in the valley until landing. And the drive was glorious, along the scenic Route 17, which snakes and climbs the coastal mountains before the slow drop to the ocean takes place, with towering cypress trees littering the horizon, until finally getting to the course and being the first and only one on the range, taking in the scenery, the sounds, the aura. Then seeing one of my good friends, haven’t seen him in years, and getting to catch up on life, all while making our way through storied land. Indeed, it was a day all of us seek out, then look back on with the grandest of memories, even if pars were hard to come by and there were too many missed 5 foot putts I care to remember. And as I caught myself almost revolting from getting in the car and leaving, the wheels were already in motion, when, when, oh when, would I get to this place again. – Golfadelphia (Pasatiempo – 2014)
The thing is, I didn’t want it to end, didn’t want to stop getting out there. So it didn’t. I recognized the game for what it was to me. A love, a passion. These times of crisis with golf, I realize now they’re so vivid because things found a way to go on. I booked tee times as a single and golfed with whoever I was paired with. Or I golfed alone. I enjoyed it either way, then savored those rarer rounds with family or friends. While it seemed like a bigger deal at the time, it was indeed important. I realized I could golf with strangers and in the end, no one cared how I played. More importantly, I actually enjoyed meeting new people, yet also realized the game was a common thread that made us all old friends. It was liberating. Whether it was going to a tournament, or gathering, or anything, and not knowing anyone, didn’t matter. This was also the time I started traveling for golf as well. And so it went. The game and I carried on. With new and old friends. To this remote corner I would never find myself at otherwise and that breathtaking vista. Coming to a handshake agreement with a cab driver in Birmingham to pick me up in a few hours from the golf course in my khakis and running shoes, having to rent everything else (this was before Uber). Enjoying drinks on the patio at National overlooking the bay as the sun went down, the entire place at peace. Golfing with my brother in North Carolina before he was deployed during a tornado warning, neither of us caring because, well, who knows when we’d be able to play together again. Pulling up to a nine hole course in Tennessee I knew nothing about and was only at because of rain in Georgia and being absolutely stunned. Walking as many holes as I could the entire day, while drinking Bud Lights at the shack and talking to Rob Collins in between. Sitting on the back porch of the cabin at Dismal River, the prairie land stretching beyond the horizon. Clear daylight sun and land for miles, yet as silent as a secret in total stillness. The stories go on and on. And really, that’s what sticks out. The memories, the laughs, the adventure. The constant with all of them is I simply wish I could stay longer but there’s always the next, beckoning. It’s an endless journey of enrichment.
And here we are a decade later. Over 223 courses reviewed, and counting.
I always thought about the golfer who might be playing the course at some point soon and was interested in learning as much as he or she could before the round. I try to convey my thoughts about the course, I try to make it feel like the reader is there to some extent. I suppose the reviews could be returned to and taken in more than one sitting, over and over, while including some shorter glimpses into what it’s about. At least, that’s the idea. It’s a labor of love. It’s fun for me to reminisce on these rounds and sharpen up how I feel about them. To recycle whatever stories I can, ramble on, go on tangents. Get into the history, the changes, the styles. Perhaps it’s just as much for me as it is the reader.
A decade. Now, course design awareness seems to be much more popular. Interest, thought, discussion on these things a lot more prevalent. It’s been great to see. There are many others involved in course touring and reviews and I enjoy looking at those; the more the merrier. I like some more than others while other sites not so much. Just like anything else in life, we all have our favorites. Yet the more overarching positive from it all is how much more interest there seems to be in course architecture. My hope is that this interest helps take course design in new and vibrant, unexplored paths, instead of falling into another cycle of incrementalness, where a small change is celebrated, replicated, and beat to death until we’re all sick of it and denounce the whole thing altogether. Restoration, renovation, re-design, in whatever form it takes, is usually a good thing and can contribute to this trailblazing I speak of. New courses obviously can. While I always enjoy experiencing well heralded courses and will continue to do so, maybe this second decade looks into some of this trailblazing as I seem to be calling it. It’ll be my attempt to do what I originally set out to do when I started this whole thing; bring attention and detail to golf courses that there’s not a whole lot out there on that are interesting enough to warrant such attention.
So here’s to a second decade of Golfadelphia. More courses, more stories, more life, more of the journey ahead. And, God willing, at some point, that elusive hole in one. Here are some close calls thus far.
While the right thing to do is look past what’s on the score card and enjoy what you can, the course certainly has the potential to erode even the most effusive personas. Such is life and such is golf. My advice is to keep grinding no matter what. The road to glory can get treacherous and even those times of strife in the gunch that may seem to last forever will pass, salvation waiting. – Golfadelphia (Prairie Dunes 2019)
As for this preview, you know how this article goes if you’ve read it in years past. I talk about how I have no idea what’s in store this year, make some vague references to doing a few things, mention a few things specifically, then I do a couple of them maybe, forget about the rest altogether and end up playing a bunch of courses I had no idea I was going to visit until it happens. I suppose that’s a lot of the fun of it for me. Being flexible and planning things as my experience and curiosity evolves. Yet unlike most years, I actually have some ideas of where this year will take me and even better, already have some ideas beyond course reviews that will be up soon. So maybe Decade 2 starts off different and this could be a fairly productive preview!
The first round of the year is in the books. I was traveling north but was able to check out Rock Spring in New Jersey, a Raynor/Banks design that went public a few years ago. I meant to play there for years and even had a tee time scheduled last year when I had to cancel for whatever reason. I liked it. Lots of interest at the greens and bunkers and teeming with variety as the terrain dictated. It is popular, and probably gets crowded in season, but in terms of very good classic design at a reasonable rate that I’ve come across, it’s in the upper tier. I’ll be back in the summer. Then it snowed and looks like it’s either sim city or a trip south at some point.
In terms of my game which I try not to bore all of you with too much, the spoiler is I did not reach a single digit index last season. BUT, I did reach my lowest index ever. With a full season of a sound swing intact, I’m now discovering a lot of effective ways to improve. Just like things changing in terms of course design this last decade, they certainly have with instruction. I’m grinding, have a plan, and still declare single digits are within reach, this season.
Content-wise, things will start with what I’m calling the Jersey Shore Shoulder Season Special. I enjoy the quiet of the shore during the winter, I love how quickly I can drive there without all the traffic and I love having all the courses to myself when I play, for the most part. It’s a seasonal highlight for me, walking the rounds while the weather does what it may, a tranquil solitude of the newborn year. I’ve been holding on to photos of courses from last year so instead of doing full blown course reviews on each, it’ll be a more comprehensive guide on my favorite spots and what I like about them. I’ll also come up with some Decade in Review article if I can make it interesting enough. A few Bourbon Chats are also in the works. While I’m very excited for one of them, I need to play two particular courses in order to finish it and let’s just say those courses are not on Golf Now. So I’m willing to hold off posting until/if/when that happens. And while I’ve alluded to it in years past, this may be the year a couple of non-golf things I’ve been working on show up. Just to spice up the Golfadelphia experience a bit.
In terms of golf courses, I have some ideas. If I had to predict, which I immediately disavow as soon as I write this, but you know, nebulously, I’d say this year will focus on courses you may have never heard about before but hold an important place in course architecture for one reason or another. It’s time for our horizons to expand. Locally, there is one course that is now squarely in my sights. It is some where I’ve actually been a number of times, but have never played. It is time to get there this season. There are also a few public courses I have been meaning to get to and with another year down, will be doubling my efforts to get there. Travel-wise, Bandon is now booked for early 2023, so that shapes up this year in some ways moving backwards. There will also definitely be some California sprinkled in. Southern Cal to be exact. I also see some Midwest in the crystal ball. Oh yes, more and more visits are needed to the great Midwest.
The Sixteenth is a 363 yard par 4. A dog leg left and it felt like the terrain really wanted to assert its presence here, seemingly underwhelmed by what it has done thus far. Accordingly, the fairway tilts left to right like a tsunami. You cling to the trees on the high side off the tee, hoping it’s enough for safety, instead of awash off the right, maybe into one of the five bunkers on that side. Avoid those bunkers. Their steep faces, then the upslope to the green, then the green itself running away from them, it’s enough to drown in strokes. (Golfadelphia, Huntingdon Valley, 2020. I always liked this hole description and think about it from time to time; there are tons of gems in those hole descriptions!).
More things coming, possibly, or just words in a sentence.
- First off, I’d like to waive goodbye to the Maine/Rhode Island promise I posted for like 6 straight years. An annual tradition and really meaning it when I said I was going to do it, I finally did it last year. Those reviews are in the pipeline. That trip spurred more ideas of where I want to go next, and whose courses I would like to see more of. This includes New England Ross courses, King/Collins courses and every course on Rhode Island’s coast.
- I now need new states to obsess over. There are plenty in the midwest and that’s likely the goal this year. A wild card is Utah. I see a path there, it all depends whether I’m able to start walking down it.
- To get specific with the midwest, Missouri, Michigan, Ohio and Iowa are on the radar, pinging loudly.
- Canada. Boy would I like to get there but it’s tough going at the moment.
- Speaking internationally, Golfadelphia isn’t getting any younger. I don’t know where to start. Australia? England? Ireland? Scotland? France? All I can say is it’s very daunting to even think about or plan. I would need multiple visits to every one of the countries to play all of the courses I’d love to get to, so then the question becomes what area of what country do I want to visit first? Then do I go back to that country or go to the first area of another country? Will this be my wife’s breaking point; visiting all of these lifetime destinations sans family? All of that’s in limbo for now, but time to mention it. This can be the next Maine/Rhode Island.
- I updated nothing last year. Looking at some of the older reviews and sprucing them up is still on the list!
- Locally, there are definitely a couple courses squarely in my sights that I will be now working hard to check out. There are some public courses I always think about yet have never actually been. Reading, Golden Oaks, Royal Manchester, St. Anne, Odessa National, Rock Spring (already done!) and Knoll Golf Club are all on that list. Maybe I can get to a couple this year (in addition to Rock Spring #overachiever #10stepsaheadofthispreview).
- Since this preview has been a retrospect of sorts, I’ll put in an oldie but goodie. Is this the year, “Golfadelphia – Behind The Bogeys” ends up a reality?
- A few Decade preview items, or things to expect this coming ten years. 50 states will be completed. Also, I see Golfadelphia, Jr., happening at some point. The son some how is as golf crazed as the father and I see a partner in crime joining at some point, roaming the country side, side by side, amassing adventure. And maybe, just maybe, Golfadelphia – A Family Affair, happens further down the line, culminating in both kids going to University of St. Andrews and my wife and I visiting monthly. Ok fine, every other month.
Lastly, I thank you, the reader. I hope you enjoy the site, or find it informative, or it’s motivated you to play some where you might not have otherwise thought of, or it’s affirmed a tee time you already made, or you find the reviews way too long so you just skim it and look at the photos. If it’s impacted you and how you look at golf courses in even some minute, barely noticeable way, I’ll take it. I love hearing from you guys so don’t be shy. And if you see me out there in the wild and want to talk golf, come on up and expect an earful.
Cheers to the adventures we’ll have in 2022 and beyond, my friends.