Posts Tagged ‘golf 50 states’

Merion Golf Club (East)

Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, PA

merion golf club east

Me, my dad, Larry and Robin

The Stats

Tee Time: July 28, 2015, 9:36, 90 F, sunny

Designer: Hugh Wilson, 1911

Playing Partners: Robin Baggett, Larry McNabb, my dad

Tees: Middle, Par 70 (71.3 rating/144 slope/6,126 yards)

Course Handicap: 10 (8.2 index)

Stats: 79 (44-35); 34 putts; 6/14 fairways; 9/18 greens

The Course

I had the extremely good fortune of getting to play Merion Golf Club’s East Course in Ardmore, Pennsylvania to get to 23 states completed. Known for its unmatched collection of great golf holes, several memorable US Opens and those wicker-basket flagsticks, I looked forward to this on my calendar for three months. Christmas came early. A couple of things about the club first. This is the first club I have been to with this much history. Built in 1896, the heritage and tradition run deep. Caddies are mandatory, there aren’t any yardage markers. No golf carts. No hats indoors. The course is always kept in championship condition. Slick greens, long rough and narrow fairways. Pace of play isn’t just a suggestion, it’s a requirement. Members who don’t complete rounds in under 4 hours get reprimanded and repeat offenders are temporarily benched. They honor the rules here. Not even a breakfast ball. I have a few friends who would struggle with that one. And really, if you’re going to knock it around at a place as esteemed and historic as this, the letter of the law is the only way to go. The club works hard to keep Merion the same as it played when it first opened, and it’s awesome to think you’re experiencing the course just as Bobby Jones did. Fortunately, they don’t go completely old-school and make you play with wooden woods and feather-stuffed balls.

merion golf club hole 11

The 11th, in 2015 as it was in 1930

The best thing they made me do was leave my cell phone in the car so I had nothing distracting me from the experience. The men’s locker room has an air of antiquity that’s like walking back in time a few decades. Located upstairs where the heat gathers, it has metal lockers probably from 1965 that look like they were once used by at Philadelphia Eagles training camps. And the post round shower, which you will need if playing in the summer, is as refreshing as a Costa Rican waterfall. Trust me. On the short drive to the practice range, around 8am, we noticed the flagsticks were adorned with actual flags and not the wicker baskets. Turns out they have to bring them in every night before sundown due to thieves running out and taking these unique souvenirs. They replace them as play progresses in the morning. I hadn’t thought about stealing a flagstick, as cool as they are, and when when the idea entered my head I realized it wouldn’t fit in my travel bag. Would’ve looked pretty sweet in my garden, though. The other thing about the wicker flagsticks is that the poles are noticeably thicker than your standard flagstick. I hit one dead center with a chip and it had no room to drop into the cup. Oh well, I’m clearly over it.

merion golf club east hole 1

The 1st

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The Golf Club at Equinox

The Golf Club at Equinox in Manchester Village, VT

golf club at equinox

Me

The Stats

Tee Time: July 22, 2015, 11:50, 69 F, scattered showers

Designer: Walter Travis, 1926/Rees Jones, 1991

Playing Partners: Bill and Rich (I said BILL and Rich, not these guys…)

Tees: Gold, Par 71 (70.8 rating/129 slope/6,423 yards)

Course Handicap: 9 (8.2 index)

Stats: 86 (44-42); 28 putts; 6/15 fairways; 6/18 greens; 4 penalty strokes

The Course

golf club at equinox hole 1

Just look how beautiful this scene is on the 1st tee

Finally the journey to new states resumes. It’s July 2015 and the last new state I had visited prior to today was New Hampshire in July 2014. A year later I’m about a par-4 west of Portsmouth, in the Green Mountain State, Vermont. Located in the small town of Manchester Village, The Golf Club at Equinox was an easy target for me. I spent the last couple weeks in Cooperstown visiting my parents and rubbing elbows with Hall of Famers (or in Bert Blyleven’s case, having bunny ears cast upon my head) for induction weekend. A top rated course in Vermont, Equinox is a scant 99 miles from my parents’ new cottage. Of course, if that’s 99 Arizona miles, this is about an hour. In New England, it’s 3 hours of winding upstate two-lane highways in a soft-top Jeep that is as quiet and comfortable as a John Deere tractor.

Bert Blyleven

Thanks Uncle Bert

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Bellevue Country Club

Bellevue Country Club in Syracuse, NY

bellevue country club

Jerry, Charlie, my dad and me

The Stats

Tee Time: July 21, 2015, 11:00, 90 F, overcast

Designer: Donald Ross, 1914

Playing Partners: Charlie Cline, Jerry Wallace, my dad

Tees: White, Par 71 (70.7 rating/132 slope/6,157 yards)

Course Handicap: 10 (8.2 index)

Stats: 89 (42-47); 31 putts; 2/14 fairways; 2/18 greens; 1 penalty stroke

The Course

As much as I love playing courses designed by old school architects, I’ve amazingly only played one Donald Ross course to date: the Biltmore down in Miami, recently featured on Ballers! Luckily, I was able to get a second taste of the famed architect. Upstate in Syracuse is Bellevue Country Club, a design from 1914 that still has teeth today. All the freshest movable-weight drivers, speed-enhancing gradational core golf balls and spin-milled wedges on the market couldn’t get me around this place any better than a member playing 1930’s Spaldings and hickory-shaft persimmons. The setting is spectacular; a quiet country club atmosphere that focuses on pure golf.

bellevue country club hole 1

The opening hole at this Donald Ross design

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I Won Something!

Capture

A couple months ago I saw an ad for the Golf Channel Amateur Tour. I did some research and thought it would be something fun to try. Beating my regular playing partners gets old, you know? The price isn’t too bad considering all the work that goes into these events, and I will definitely sign up for more in the future. I’ve had fun in all three events so far.

I started with a T6 at the Corta Bella Invitational, where I lost to, among others, former Malcolm in the Middle star Frankie Muniz. That was interesting, but he’s a cool guy and it’ll be fun to get another round in with him. The I finished third at the Trilogy Power Ranch tournament, despite playing in a wrist brace. It wasn’t even my wrist’s fault. One four-putt and one bad chip were all that kept me out of first. Golf gets a lot tougher, but so much more rewarding, in a tournament setting where every shot must be holed out (so long, gimmies) and the rules followed to the letter. Out of bounds gets a lot scarier knowing you could be hitting 3, or even 5, off the tee.

grayhawk raptor hole 1

The first tee at the Raptor Course

Then last week, May 31, was the Grayhawk Open, on the Raptor Course. I had never played either course there. Luckily, the tour secured discount rates for the week to anyone who wanted a practice round beforehand. I took them up on the offer and headed up the day before at 3pm. It was a disaster. The temperature when I teed off was 107 degrees. This was the first extreme heat of the year, and that mild May that Arizona was blessed with did not have me ready for triple digits. I couldn’t keep a ball in play, hooking, slicing and topping drives. I don’t think I’ve topped a drive in like 5 years. I started the day with 10 golf balls in the bag and was flying around the empty course until the 8th hole. I skipped some foursomes until I found another opening, but kept losing balls and ran out after the par-3 16th. Continue reading

Cowboys Golf Club

Cowboys Golf Club in Grapevine, TX

cowboys golf club

Me and Greg (and a cutout of the Golf Channel’s Charlie Rymer photobombing us)

The Stats

Tee Time: April 12, 2015, 8:30, 78 F, Cloudy

Designer: Jeffery Brauer, 2001

Playing Partners: Greg Ryan

Tees: Silver, Par 72 (72.6 rating/135 slope/6,563 yards)

Course Handicap: 10 (8.1 index)

Stats: 83 (39-44); 38 putts; 10/14 fairways; 11/18 greens; 2 penalty strokes

The Course

cowboys golf club hole 13

The gorgeous approach to the 13th

There’s a lot of expected extravagance at the Cowboys Golf Club in Grapevine, Texas. Four replica Super Bowl trophies prominently displayed just inside the pro shop. A six-foot wide Cowboy star in the middle one of the fairways. A Cowboys magnetic pin given to all golfers to wear that lets the cart girls know you can eat and drink for free. Markers at every hole detailing various moments in the Cowboys’ rich football history (just ignore those past twenty years or so since their last Super Bowl…) Golf carts without numbers but labeled with names of Dallas Cowboys of the past instead (we got Randy White). There are constant reminders that this is the world’s only NFL themed golf club. Though being the world’s only NFL themed golf club is a lot like being world’s only golf-themed football stadium. What? Exactly. Especially to a non-Cowboys fan like myself, all of this can detract from what is a very good golf course that more than holds up to the Jerry Jones-driven hype. Even that great carnival barker who just happens to own an NFL team can’t oversell this well-constructed track. You probably won’t even hear him, what with the 747’s coming in for landing at the nearby DFW airport all day. Maybe that’s why I played well here, I couldn’t even hear myself think.

So I guess that means we were cart #54?

So I guess that means we were cart #54?

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Old American Golf Club

Old American Golf Club in The Colony, TX

old american graig mantle

Me and Greg

The Stats

Tee Time: April 10, 2015, 11:00, 70 F, Windy

Designer: Tripp Davis/Justin Leonard, 2010

Playing Partners: Greg Ryan

Tees: White, Par 71 (71.6 rating/130 slope/6,366 yards)

Course Handicap: 10 (8.1 index)

Stats: 96 (48-48); 37 putts; 5/13 fairways; 2/18 greens; 4 penalty strokes

The Course

Old American Bunker Club, sorry, I mean Old American Golf Club in The Colony, Texas, is a newer, semi-private golf course along the shores of Lake Lewisville. If I said there are 500 bunkers on this course, I’d be low. And they’re all so easy to hit into. They’re not there just for show, to look good on the front of the scorecard. Technically, they’re waste areas and are played as such. The description says the bunkers here are meant to be true hazards, punishing missed shots instead of rewarding them with fluffy lies to make sand saves from. I personally didn’t find the actual bunkers that intimidating; there are just so many that it becomes a nuisance, like mosquitoes on a muggy summer day. Try as hard to avoid them as you want to avoid them, they’ll still get you. The sand isn’t that much different from the typical sand trap. I expected the “waste area” to be a dump of thin lies, scattered twigs and other muni lies. Instead the only difference is you’re allowed to ground your club in the sand. At least they didn’t rule some areas waste and some bunkers, or I could’ve pulled a Dustin Johnson. Now that I’ve described the bunkers, the other half of the course that isn’t sand is actually very nice. I didn’t mind the sand until about the twelfth time in them. The least they could do is not make me rake the waste area.

old american golf club hole 13

The bunker-laden approach at the par-4 13th

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SunRidge Canyon

SunRidge Canyon in Fountain Hills, AZ

sunridge canyon graig cj

CJ, Jim, Al and me

The Stats

Tee Time: March 22, 2015, 9:58, 84 F, calm

Designer: Keith Foster, 1995

Playing Partners: CJ Phelan, Al, Jim

Tees: Gold, Par 71 (70.1 rating/134 slope/6,403 yards)

Course Handicap: 9 (7.4 index)

Stats: 82 (37-45); 31 putts; 9/13 fairways; 7/18 greens; 3 penalty strokes

The Course

CJ came down for his first desert golf experience. Also, my first taste of golf since October, almost six months! (No, the 9-hole, 7-iron round doesn’t count). So after two planned days at Wildfire, to check out the LPGA, and Southern Dunes, a favorite of mine, CJ wanted more. My wallet and wrist were hurting, but who says no to more golf? Thankfully, we got a prime spot at SunRidge Canyon. If you’d been out with us, you might even notice we were golfing. We were paired up with another twosome, Jim and Al who made the day much more fun. Jim and CJ became best friends by the third hole, carrying conversations from tee to green while Al and I watched in amusement. They’d still be telling stories mid-backswing and be just fine. I was thankful for the company, because toward the end of the round, SunRidge Canyon features the “Wicked 6.” It is the selling point of this course, a tough 6-hole slog back up the canyon to finish your round. I laughed it off. I was wrong.

sunridge canyon hole 6

A view of Four Peaks from the 6th tee

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