“We have stories to tell, stories that provide wisdom about the journey of life. What more have we to give one another than our ‘truth’ about our human adventure as honestly and as openly as we know how?” – Rabbi Saul Rubin
I wasn’t planning on golfing on this trip to Los Angeles but the game has a way of getting me out anyways. I was borrowing a set of clubs, the heaviest out of a bunch of senior flex shafts and resorted to a kind of half swing where I envisioned myself looking like Jon Rahm but probably looked more like Charles Barkley. I was golfing in a fivesome and there was considerable wait on almost every shot. We were on pace for a three-hour nine-holer. A few holes in, I ran to check a ball and re-tore my calf, an injury I’ve been dealing with all year. All of a sudden I could barely walk. I limped from the cart to my ball, would hit my shot, and limp back. My Dad was with me and was struggling getting the ball in the air. Frustrated and wondering if he should be out there at all, he suggested we pack it in and head back to the clubhouse. I responded.
“We’re not going any where.”
While there were so many highlights this season, I’d say the most memorable was that round at Harbor Park, a nine hole Los Angeles municipal course minutes away from the LA Harbor. It’s a regular haunt for my Dad, who likes the nine holes and how easy it is to walk. The last time I was there was five years ago, when me and my Dad went there for a tune up round before our trip to Bandon Dunes. That round was uneventful enough and we made our way to Bandon without incident. Early on, however, my Dad started complaining about pain in his leg. He got through the first day well enough but it was the afternoon round at Trails on the second day I saw him struggling. A lot. There was a point I thought we would need to call for help but he managed to finish the round. He stayed in his room the rest of the trip, still complaining of pain and fatigue but just wanting to rest.
Over the years I wondered if that round at Trails was the last time we would golf together. He ended up flying home and went straight to the ER, where he was diagnosed with a staph infection. Then he had heart surgery. Then the COVID shutdown. Then back surgery. As he loves to tell me, it’s no fun getting old. I always kept hope alive we’d get out there again. He seemed to consider giving up the game entirely every now and then but I’d tell him that was nonsense. There were plenty of guys in worse shape than him out there; it was only a matter of time before he was up for it.
We actually started the game together. Well, it was his second time starting the game. He tried to take it up when I was a kid but stopped playing because it was “such a pain in the ass.” I think both of us starting at the same time helped, not because we would encourage each other and high five after one of us hit a good shot. But because we’re both competitive as hell. There was yelling, swearing at each other, arguments on rulings where neither of us remotely knew the rules. He hated how mad I’d get at bad shots. I’d hate his general smugness when I was playing bad. Yet we kept going out there. Because I’m pretty sure both of us loved every second of it and wouldn’t have it any other way. Mind you, we mellowed over the years. There was the round at St. Kitt’s just before I got married, where it was me and him with the ocean and palm trees as our family and friends started arriving at the hotel. The sun started its gentle descent as we strolled along the coastline for the finishing holes. I think about that round often. There was the round at Los Verdes, where we did a gloves off match. I borrowed his Ray Cook putter and couldn’t miss with it. As the score tilted my way for the win, I still remember him remarking, “that putter is saving your ass.”
So after years and years, here we were again. Me limping around and him hitting 10 yard grounders at a time, the rest of group patient as saints. He would complain, I would impart whatever wisdom I feel I had picked up recently. I’m a firm believer that dogged determination is a prime earner of karma, however, and believed in every fiber of my being that seeing the round through would yield good things. Or maybe I just wanted to golf with my Dad again, no matter what. And sure enough as this game goes, things started to happen. I started playing well, knocking in pars and birdies just like the real Jon Rahm I was trying so hard to emulate. My Dad’s shots started getting airborne, then distance. One of the guys in the group invited him into the men’s senior game then and there. And then, on the second to last hole, my Dad snagged his first par. That’s all it took. The swagger was back. Sure enough, almost as soon as that ball fell in the hole, he started with the smack talk and swing critiques. We were back. I’m already looking forward to next time and of course, getting my son out with us.
Like my Dad, I at least feel like I’m getting old. Technology doesn’t help even though I try to stay current on it. For example, I don’t know whether my new phone allows it or I’ve had it all along, but I’ve at least discovered there’s a snippet of sound accompanying each photo I take if I keep my finger on the photo for a second. I’ve become addicted. The sounds vary, from birds chirping, to talking, to clubs clicking against each other, to sublime silence. It brings an entirely new dimension to what I remember about a round or a course. They are stolen moments, frozen in time, crystallizing the experience of a particular round. In no particular order, here is at least some of the dialogue and sounds from the photos:
- “He’s a real good guy.” (Not sure who we’re talking about)
- “Kind of like Cypress Point.” (location undisclosed).
- Constant rain, every single photo (Oakland Hills)
- Lighthouse horn (Fisher’s)
- “Hit it off the toe.” (someone else; I’m always more towards the heel)
- “That’s a cool green.” (Paramount)
- “The green is some where over there?” (Bayonne)
“A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.” – John Steinbeck
Each round of golf, no matter who you’re with or where you are, is a particular journey. Within and with each other. I was asked recently why I golf. For the adventure, within and without. The places it takes me, the things I get to see. The people I meet and those I have known for some time. How it tests, inspires, enrages and settles me, some times all at the same time. You learn something about yourself and sure as hell learn something about those you’re playing with, each round. I care about how I play and how I execute my shots. Scoring well is nice, so is winning my match but I’ve learned it doesn’t take the place of hitting the ball as well as I know I’m capable of. There are times where my score is terrible or I lose my match yet my swing is exactly where I want it to be. Those times, I walk away happy besides. I suppose I enjoy maximizing my potential. I also suppose I hate underperforming. I’m getting better at embracing the volatility of the game. That part of the game is tough. Yet if the company is up to it or the course is splendid, then that cures most anything else. The journey. There is good in it most every time unless your swing has failed you, your score and match are against you, the course is poor and the company is deficient. I’ve never had that happen though.
I’ve come to learn that photos taken in “Live” mode on the iPhone capture both the sights and sounds of that particular moment. The sounds and discussions from each of those photos adds another dimension to remembering each round. There were boozy rounds. There were light hearted, laughy rounds. Rounds with strangers, green supers, club presidents, club pros, course architects, college players, family, friends. Rounds with something on the line. Solo rounds. Rounds with wildlife. Hungover rounds. Rounds where the game exposed its soft underbelly and the ball did exactly as I asked. Rounds where I felt like the more I swung, the more over my head I got as the ball went no where, or no where good. Peaceful rounds. Rounds with million dollar views. Wet rounds. Cold rounds. Fall rounds. Rounds where I tried new shots. Rounds where I wished I just stuck to what I know. Rounds for work. Rounds for charity. The one round I didn’t have? A sad one.
Each round is unique, just like each golf course. Just like each day life graces us. Golf course design crystallizes that variety. A living, breathing organism that changes each day itself. All of these components; the company, the elements, your swing, your temperament, the course – something about them are different each time you walk up to that First tee. Then you have those components even changing during the round itself. The capacity for new experiences is almost infinite out there. A lot of it never something within your control. Embracing that, appreciating that, then adapting and adjusting to it is the never ending journey. Why do I golf. Because golf is life as far as I’m concerned. You learn more than how to hit it out of the rough out there. I certainly learn something about myself. While there’s tumult, confusion, hilarity and the rest, at some point I find peace out there.
Near the end of the season, I found myself in Rhode Island. The last course I played during my brief stay was Misquamicut. I pulled into the empty parking lot. The clubhouse was shuttered, the pro shop likewise closed for the season. A foursome teed off and drifted away, into the heart of the course. I waited for my host in quiet stillness while the brilliant Ross shaping laid out before me. It had been a long week and I was weary but this was a command performance. It was a fitting end of the season. The course revealed itself hole by hole in splendid fashion as I walked those hills, then down to the seaside as the sun held low in a deep orange warmth. Fascination and gratitude overwhelmed throughout and as I cobbled up to the Eighteenth tee, the green was high above me, the sea behind and the timeless clubhouse off to the left. I was at peace. A peace I don’t think one can find any where else. Once you find that harmony out there, the game becomes easy. Probably because one realizes those moments that it doesn’t matter where the ball goes. So I hit my tee shot and watched as it flew straight and true to the green. The sun was beginning to set at that point and upon reaching the green, the ocean and setting sun beamed beyond the flagstick. Why do I golf. For those moments of tranquil serenity that stay with me and fortify the journey onward.
He looks around, around
He sees angels in the architecture
Spinning in infinity
He says, “Amen and Hallelujah!” – Paul Simon
That journey of golf course design is to learn. And it never ends. I always measure each year in terms of how much I was able to learn. I could care less what a course is ranked or how hard or easy it is to get a tee time. 2022 was indeed another year of learning. A year of learning important aspects of my favorite designer, Donald Ross. A year of playing almost half of courses for the first time in New York and New Jersey, where the depth of eminent course architecture is astounding. A year of discerning a bit more between the design styles of Raynor and Macdonald. A year of advancing a thesis on prolific modern course design. And yes, a year of discovering the amount of Flynn influence on Dick Wilson, who seems to be under discussed nowadays to the detriment of us all. Indeed, 2022 reassured me that I will never stop learning and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
To wit, the year in review.
States played in:
- New Jersey
- New York
- North Carolina
- Rhode Island
List of courses not yet reviewed that were played this year (the others played this year are in reviews):
- Elkridge Club
- Paramount Country Club
- Bayonne Golf Club
- Bidermann Golf Club
- Fishers Island Golf Club
- Hay Harbor Club
- Lancaster Country Club
- Hudson National Golf Club
- Sleepy Hollow Country Club
- Aronimink Golf Club
- Curratuck Club
- Metedeconck National Golf Club
- Moselem Springs Golf Club
- St. George’s Golf and Country Club
- Essex County Club (NJ)
- The Creek Club
- Bethpage Red
- Piping Rock Golf Club
- Hackensack Golf Club
- Hershey West
- Wildfire – Palmer
- Westchester Golf Club
- Wilmington Country Club South
- Triggs Memorial
- Shelter Harbor Golf Club
- Misquamicut Club
- Jericho National
As always, the below are from courses that were played for the first time this year.
Meadow Brook Club. Circumstance and serendipity are more interwoven than we care to admit most of the time but I attribute both to my playing here early in the season. A last minute cancellation, an empty tee sheet because of weather and a gracious host conspired as I found myself on the opening tee. What unfolded almost immediately shaped a good deal of the season. As I wrote in my review, “So began two separate journeys that day. The first was to seek out a lot more of Dick Wilson’s work and learn more about him and his style. This design is a far cry from the calls this was a dark age in course architecture (which by the way was also used by generations before us about the eras before them). There’s a level of sophistication here different from RTJ’s dominant style and the compare and contrast between these two is worth exploring intensely. The second is Long Island in general. I have visited in the past to visit its more famous courses, but it is evident there’s an extremely deep portfolio that needs to be included in my sojourns. This review coming months after my round here, both of the above have been undertaken enthusiastically.” Modern course design anchored to classic design tenets which then branches out in its own style is inclined towards memorability. Dick Wilson was a pioneer of this concept, which was also utilized by Pete Dye, his understudies and even reaching to contemporaries nowadays like Rob Collins. Meadow Brook is a wonderful, unique iteration of Wilson’s style and a landmark of modern course potential.
Oakland Hills South. I seem to come across a course or two every year where I’m expecting the classic components to become a bit compromised for the sake of difficulty in trying to stay, “tournament worthy.” It is with shame in admitting Oakland Hills was one of those courses for me. I was expecting a slough of tough shots where I would drown in strokes. On the contrary, the course surprised me with just how engaging the ground game was. The grand scale of the greens were a delight. The configuration with how the fairways and greens danced with the hills and creeks was sublime. A brilliant routing by Ross left untouched all these years with a newfound focus by Gil Hanse and team to reinvigorate the terrain that lends itself to the game left me awestruck. I left the course with a new best friend.
Hay Harbor Club. We found a ride to the course after our round at Fisher’s Island. Still reeling from how much we enjoyed Fisher’s, anything would have done to unwind for the day but instead, we were met with an impressive nine holes that played remarkably well off a jutty coastline of Long Island Sound. The movement of the fairways and greens with respect to the terrain dramatically changed from hole to hole as the setting was ethereal. The self-sustaining conditions were likewise noteworthy, a prime example that spectacular golf can be had amidst shaggy fairways, raw bunkers and native greens. One of the better nine holes a golfer could expect to play.
Fishers Island. As always, these courses are different from the surprises category because I come into these rounds expecting to be floored from the get go. These courses are highlighted because they not only meet those lofty expectations, they shatter them altogether. Such was the case at Fisher’s. I was expecting to love it even on the boat ride over. The setting and course are interchangeable even though both would be all world by themselves anyways. It’s the manner in which Raynor selected coastal points for the greens, then had the fairways shift, twist and climb to them yet maintained such intrigue as the course moved inward. The strategy one could revel in here as the ocean stands nearby in whatever mood catches it at the time is surreal. This is Golden Age naturalism on one of its finest stages.
Aronimink. There is a difference between playing a course and walking it or seeing photos of it. One needs to interact with it to truly get a sense of what it’s about. Such was the case for me here, where I have walked the grounds numerous times over the years but never had the good fortune to play. I expected to enjoy it but did not appreciate how well designed the approach shots were to a magnificent set of greens. There is a lot more character here than I could sense with my non playing time on the grounds, as Ross took his cues from the hilly terrain. Yet another Hanse project where he tapped into the identity of the course and found ways to challenge the more skilled player while ensuring it was just as engaging for the lesser skilled among us. One of the ways this was done was always leaving a chance of recovery while those who know the course can take advantage of its idiosyncrasies. An instant local favorite.
The Creek. Perhaps I expected the setting and scenery to drive the narrative I had heard about before playing here but that dissipated on the approach at the First. The greens were some of the best I played all season, sophisticated in their movement and configuration to fairways. The incorporation of the native sandy areas and how they meshed with each hole enhances the spectacular natural setting and its playing structure. Macdonald utilized space so well where it seems there is overwhelming width while bunkers are well placed in their variety. Yet it’s the greens that mesmerized me, time and again. They set the tone for the rest, all of it playing as a unique links one could not find elsewhere. The width mentioned above enables the flexibility necessary for the course to accommodate and utilize the winds and weather that come in often. One of the favorites played this year.
Favorite Contemporary Moderns
I mentioned Meadow Brook but moving to more recently designed courses, there are a few that struck me as promising directions moving forward.
Shelter Harbor. A dominant problem one encounters nowadays is green and fairway speeds not matching up with the intended design, which has the potential to render contours and slopes that were part of an earlier design as irrelevant. A lot of current work has gone into ensuring classic courses can accommodate faster speeds but there’s simply several courses where the greens were supposed to be handled differently, where putting was a game of skill instead of a game of nerves. A more classic course may have to embrace an entirely new identity in the event that it sports neck-breaking fast greens and at any rate, there are a handful of courses that deal with this issue to the benefit of the playing structure in different ways. What Shelter Harbor does so well, however, is its original design accommodates such fast conditions. The fairways and greens arch, widen, rumple and run out so that the ball can move a variety of directions about the course. The greens are large and are situated so that they expect the quickness. This all makes the course play marvelously, where one needs to expect the run out at each shot and where putting the greens is an exciting adventure one won’t encounter elsewhere. Combined with a serene natural setting, this is a special place.
Bayonne. While Shelter Harbor is able to use the swaths of land upon which it sits in splendid fashion, Bayonne displays an impressive economy of space that should be emulated in urban areas worldwide. It’s not just the engineering aspects of building a course on such a small space in the middle of New York harbor; it’s how good the course actually plays as well. An Irish links style with dunes and rutty hills marking the landscape to impart the randomness needed in its play while serving the dual purpose of masking views and separating holes throughout. There’s surprising variety and a cadence from hole to hole that transports the golfer to the links is every respect. Transformations such as those at Bayonne and the public Lincoln West are built shows how this game can improve community space for the benefit of all.
Bidermann. Ok I lied. I can’t help going back to older Moderns, especially those designed by Dick Wilson. Meadow Brook made a lasting impression and when I played Bidermann, there were several similar traits that impressed as well. The course incorporates a remarkable natural landscape without imposition. There is a focus on strategy in broad strokes and specific touches alike. There is a multi-dimensional playing structure that one expects at the more lauded Golden Age courses, with modern angles to it. Without quirk or boldness, the course seems to have been built with timelessness in mind. It succeeds admirably in that regard.
While most every course has had work performed to it nowadays, these are where the most recent project has made profound strides.
Sleepy Hollow. This is not an example of a course that shined with exuberance before the work of modern golf designers some how ruining it, which was then saved and redeemed. The course is on dramatic terrain and while Macdonald initially did well by the course, disagreements with Rockefeller over tree removal disinterested him on the site and it was still early on in Raynor’s career for him to shoulder the load alone. Subsequent land transactions and work by Tillinghast and a local architect named Tom Winton further changed the course, whose club sought coherency in the late Twentieth century. Rees Jones then came in and working with the club, a modern rendition of the course was born. While some enjoy bemoaning Rees’ work here, they fail to consider the historical context within which the work was performed. Templates, Raynor and restorations had yet to achieve their trendy place in course architecture. It’s also not as if Rees did his work overnight without extensive consultation and oversight.
Almost two decades after Rees’ project, the club sought another direction with the course. Gil Hanse and the late George Bahto were retained to transform the course into a cohesive Macdonald design. Not restore what was there at some point, but instead to re-design the course with Macdonald design principles as the guide. This work took place in 2006 – 07. The greens were then worked on about ten years later. At long last, the course is a brilliant rendition of MacRaynor on sharp rocky terrain boasting awe inspiring views of the Hudson. The fairway shaping keeps up with the marvelous greens, making for a memorable play that surpasses anything it was prior to Hanse and Bahto initially setting foot on the grounds.
St. Georges. An earlier Gil Hanse project (1999), here he was called upon to restore back to the original design of Devereaux Emmet, who set out to establish his own magnum opus after watching firsthand as his close friend Macdonald built National Golf Links of America. Hanse restored greens, did extensive tree removal and brought the course back to its original design tenets. The course doesn’t feel like it’s on a smaller piece of property while a number of its below grade greens stun the golfer with their movement and deception. An array of angles and abrupt hills comprise this lively, spirited and masterful course I would happily play every day of my life with a smile on my face.
Meadowbrook. There’s Meadow Brook in New York, then there’s Meadowbrook in Michigan. In 2017, Andy Staples was tasked with enhancing the course to exude as much style of splendor of Willie Park, Jr. as possible, which he carried out heroically. As written in my review, “The intent was to ensure the course revealed itself slowly over time, yet exuded a unique sense of style that Park was known for. Make no mistake, however; Staples imparted his own brilliance to maximizing the hilly property and incorporating Park’s design accordingly. It is very much a showcase of his talents, resulting in a visually stunning course with strategy for days in firm and fast conditions that is now much more sustainable and low maintenance than before. The club set out to improve their course for the Centennial and Staples managed to deliver that in every respect possible.” The course is yet another I fell in love with after a few holes and could walk its corridors on a forever loop.
Favorite Public Played
It is worth repeating over and over, but the public golf scene should be just as exciting and engaging as the private. There is no other way for golf course architecture to progress than ensure its importance and strong points touch every single golfer. Public courses are how interest in course design was instilled in me and hopefully it will be the same for many more. I would say that each course below is worth traveling to for those (like me) who would need to stray from their home range.
Bethpage Red. I found similarities between Bethpage Red and Bethpage Black several times during the round in terms of its large scale and how the holes are configured to the terrain but instead of focusing on outright challenge off the tee and emphasizing penal elements throughout like the Black, the Red features more chances of recovery, more strategy from tee to green and a more interesting set of greens. While Tillinghast envisioned the Black as a true championship test, it is apparent that the Red was meant for a different kind of round. A bit more engaging for the amateur golfer in Tillinghast’s style and produces a very interesting round of golf. Some times a golfer wants to test himself against the sternest of all tests and for him, there is the Black. Other and most times, the golfer wants a test without the brutality of falling short in the most difficult of situations, wants to be engaged and think his way around the course and wants to be inventive at his chance at redemption. The Red is for that golfer. The compare and contrast of these two courses is worthwhile, both showcasing the genius of Tillinghast.
Triggs Memorial. A golf course I have been trying to get to for at least eight or nine years, I finally accomplished this when I made an earlier than early drive up to Providence to make sure I could get the round in. A stern Donald Ross design. It starts off a gentle giant, long and wide yet on flatter terrain and without defiant hazards. The opening sequence then transitions to more turbulent terrain and with it more challenge where course knowledge becomes more and more valuable. The back nine gets right to it and delves into the more volatile terrain, all of which is used superbly without awkward forced carries or out of bounds. It’s a fantastic public course and display of Ross with a few really good holes. It would benefit from more attention to the fairways and bunkers but there’s always room for improvement at most places. In terms of municipal Ross courses out there, this is one of the better ones.
Rock Spring. A Raynor design that was built by Banks after Raynor’s death, the styles of both designers are evident throughout the round. Raynor’s strategy and flow intertwines with Banks’ sharp abruptness and daring. The styles of course seep into the structure of play, which shifts between deciding how to use the terrain to points where the golfer must shove all his chips forward and go all in. The routing about the hilly terrain is another highlight, using ridge lines and hill sides adventurously. All of this as a public course is a delight, especially since most Raynor and Banks courses are private.
Favorite Course Played
Fishers Island. The identity of a course is a powerful thing. While its design is the prime driving force of its identity, there are so many intangibles at play that form it as well. The course can easily stand on its own without its setting, but its setting certainly adds to its all world identity. The routing is supreme. While any old path about the coast line probably would have done, the green sites and angles into them are well thought out. Some may complain about the natural conditions, but that is the entire point. Some also mention a couple holes on the back nine as not up to snuff with the others but I don’t care. Not every hole has to break your neck in my opinion. Whether each hole has its place in the overall experience is another thing altogether. The biggest question I ask myself at every course is how does the place make you feel. Here, it made me feel like I lived a better life getting to walk the rocky coast line, feel the mood of the oceania, and interact with it. Every shot with a smile.
Oakland Hills South. Another example of an otherworldly routing making an impression on me this year. The grand scale finesse is unmatched here as the green slopes and contours are a delight while the bunkers seem to be in all the right places. Oakland Hills is well known for its championship pedigree but it’s only a matter of time before its revamped greens and ground game are the focal point, raising its versatility and sophistication. The engagement is through the roof and I’m counting the days I return.
The Creek. Relying too much on setting for visuals while ignoring functionality and playing structure are usually mistakes one sees at resort courses. Relying on setting to enhance playing structure, as well as utilizing the playing structure to accommodate the elements of the setting are the good stuff. I see the Creek as a sandy wasteland that falls towards that coast, all of it open and in play at any given time. The movement on the greens is ethereal. The width and the angles it creates into the greens is established at the First, which may be one of the best starting holes in golf. While the Sixth is the big reveal of the coast, it is the green on that hole that dazzles most, presenting the golfer with an arsenal of options on the approach. Yet the Eighth reverse Redan is what captivated me, with the movement of that lovely green. This is all before you reach the heart of the course, at the creek and coastline, before starting the journey back home. Its links components and refined variety were invigorating.
Aronimink. A large expanse of hilly parkland setting could have been used a number of ways but Ross ensured the round traversed the hillside from a number of angles and focused on the approach shots. Alas, those approach shots are from a number of different hills and lies and there are options whether to carry or run up and of course, believe the ball will even stay on the green once it lands. The tee shots are mostly about setting up the approach before really getting down to business at the greens. It’s a winsome parkland, showcasing just how unique Ross can make a course without quirk or boldness, but instead focusing on the core fundamentals of routing and greens. You feel like you’re golfing here, fully alive with each shot.
Piping Rock. An early design by Macdonald and Raynor, right after National Golf Links, and the first inland property either had set a course. It’s an expansive property that plays with width appropriately before slowly transitioning to a hillier, more secluded parkland setting on the back. The variety is splendid with each a memorable entity all while maintaining cohesiveness in strategy with the contours of the land and well placed below ground bunkers. It’s a handsome style of golf, the well polished grounds provoking thought how to coax the slopes cleverly to the hole. A joy to play, excelling in fun and strategy amidst a high level of regality. Golf at its finest.
Misquamicut. This is a different Ross style than one would find at Oakland Hills or even Pinehurst 2. This is a Ross one can find at Country Club of Buffalo, or Country Club of York, or even Pinehurst 3. An emphasis on shaping and using the terrain boldly, I was in heaven within the gigantic rumples of the first fairway (which is another noteworthy opener). The Eighth through Tenth really emphasizes the dramatic shaping, at which point the course transitions to low lying coastal land and takes on another mellower form. It reminded me of Maidstone in that sense of transitions in setting about the coast while the drama in the shaping is done so well, ensuring the course is encased on a wealth of character.
St. Georges. Devereaux Emmet hand selected this site to design his masterpiece after assisting Macdonald with National Golf Links. The land is special, with its wild undulations and is used masterfully. Even on flat level ground, Emmet uses below extraordinary below ground features for interest, such as at the Fourth. The greens have tremendous variety and are all magnificent specimens with their own little identities. The character here and its spirit of the links are so strong and individual; it’s a wonderful stage for golf and among the better designs in Long Island, especially after Hanse completed his work here. For those looking for something different that works immeasurably well, get here post haste.
Using the courses I played this year for the first time and coming up with the best course possible using the respective number hole of those selected, the 2022 Super Composite:
- First: The Creek
- Second: Lancaster
- Third: Sleepy Hollow
- Fourth: Meadowbrook
- Fifth: Wilmington South
- Sixth: Aronimink
- Seventh: Oakland Hills South
- Eighth: Bayonne
- Ninth: Paramount
- Halfway House: The Creek
- Tenth: Misquamicut
- Eleventh: Essex County (NJ)
- Twelfth: Hackensack
- Thirteenth: Fishers Island
- Fourteenth: Shelter Harbor
- Fifteenth: Bethpage Red
- Sixteenth: St. Georges
- Seventeenth: Bidermann
- Eighteenth: Meadow Brook
And finally, the real entertainment.
St. Georges. A personal best round of 82, which in true golf fashion should have been a 79 except for a few bonehead shorter putts. I just remember a supreme confidence over the ball, knowing it would go where I wanted. This was with a squirrely driver. I was in that great mental space where bad shots didn’t bother me because I knew the next one would be great. The best thing was it’s not like I played out of my mind. I simply endured and avoided blow up holes. I didn’t even mention it to my golfing partners, we were enjoying the day and the course so much, I just wanted to focus on that. And we did.
Jekyl and Hyde. 52-40 (Llanerch), 41-49 (Llanerch), 48-42 (Sleepy), 46-38 (Moselem); it was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Most of the time I just needed to get going while at least once, I lost it on the back. I just remember the good and forget the bad. Perhaps my swing has a penchant for drama.
Woodcrest (or Legacy something?), 15 and 16. Back to back birdies with a fiery hot putter.
Merion East. Weird fact. I have always parred the Thirteenth. And the tee shot this season was the best of the bunch, straight as all get out, missing the birdie putt by inches but fine with it. Unfortunately, the Fourteenth was a disaster. I actually asked my caddie, “I can see my car from here. Should I just take my bag from you and go get in it?” Thankfully, I did not. A par-par-bogey finish is noteworthy for me at one of my favorite cathedrals.
Sleepy Hollow. The Sixteenth. My God that hole is plastered all over. For good reason, but still. I was determined, I wanted my pound of flesh. Par here.
Oak Quarry. At the Eleventh. This was blades time, hungover as all get out (my high school friends are the worst), I took my 9 iron out and just desecrated the entire course with a filthy approach to 2 feet. I was one with the club. Beers were ordered at the next hole, a soft spoken muscly bearded guy in our group let loose and alas, golf unified us all.
Bulle Rock. Look. I like this course. But I can carry a grudge and yeah it was ten years since I willed myself to return. But the past is in the past. At any rate it was early Spring and the ball striking was en Fuego. At the Ninth, I piped a drive that cleared the water, then hitched a wedge to 2 feet for a knock in birdie. I wish they all felt that easy. I like to think the course was glad I was back, and welcomed me the best way it could.
LedgeRock. I came back to my old haunt and turning through the ball was very big for me then. Had a really good round, with one of the highlights being my tee shot on the Eighteenth which sailed out and down to the fairway and left me in range of the green for my second shot on the par 5. By far my longest drive there. The course apparently misses me and I miss it right back.
Jesus. Where to start.
Philadelphia Cricket. Wissahickon, 2 and 3. I think I bogeyed the Second once and was elated. The Third, usually nice to me, was dismal. I was all over the place. It’s the shortest hole on the entire course!
Essex County, 7 and 8. For those two holes, I forgot how to swing a golf club. I lost like 5 balls in the process. I’ll try to recount the disaster. 7 – pulled tee shot, OB. Recovery dribbled into a nearby bunker. Hit the lip and ramped out on to the fairway, mercifully. Approach shot woefully short. Chip shot blazed by the hole, then probably three putted. 8 – tee shot right but found. Second shot I thought hit well but went in the water anyways. Next shot was left of the green, I think I chipped it some what close from there. Now that I think about it, my second shot at 18 here was also a disaster. A pushed fairway wood into the deep rough that took me ages to get out of and on to the green.
Jericho National. The Third is a short par 4 downhill but there was a lot of headwind. I decided to get way too cute and assured my team mate I was going to hit a bunt driver that would cut through the wind and roll once it hit the fairway. Instead, I hooked the shit out of the ball and it dove into fescue, never to be found again. I don’t think my team mate was very pleased.
Llanerch. At the First, my tee shot ended up in a bunker. With one leg sticking out of the sand, I decided to try and use my utility iron to the green. It was dumb decision to begin with. The ball went 4 feet but at least got out of the bunker.
I could keep going but all the trauma from thinking about all the bad shots is starting to get to me.
Stay loose out there and mix it up. Include a variety of courses in your journeys, as well as a variety of company. The game offers so much, take advantage of it all. See you all on the other side of 2023, where I hope all the paths of our respective journeys cross.