Thursday, July 28, 2011

Columbus Trip Recap; Club Championship on the Horizon

It's been a wonderful year of golf travel for yours truly. A five-day trip to Bandon, Oregon in March was followed by another five-day road trip to Long Island, NY in May. The proverbial icing on the cake was the seven day trip to Columbus, Ohio that I made with my family last week.

The highlight from a golf standpoint were the two rounds we played at Jack Nicklaus' Muirfield Village Golf Club, shown above, the home of the Memorial Tournament on the PGA Tour and rated inside the top 30 US courses by every major golf publication. It's a great track and the conditioning was incredible, especially when you consider how hot it was in the Columbus area, with humidex readings close to 50 degrees Celsius. Thank goodness for the milkshakes in the clubhouse after our round, which are as good as advertised.

Nicklaus' home course growing up was the Donald Ross-designed Scioto Country Club and what a treat it was to play there. While the course featured few trees upon its opening, Scioto today is a true parkland layout with towering trees bordering most of the holes on a wonderfully undulating property. I was very impressed with Scioto and think it may be a tad underrated, as it sits near the bottom of most top 100 lists for American courses.

The Arthur Hills-designed Longaberger Golf Club was the only public course we played on the trip. It's rated within the top 100 public courses in the US by all of the publications and I thought it was a strong test but was unimpressed with some of the routing choices. It is an incredible property and I think Hills went for home runs on every hole, perhaps at the expense of the routing. The course is practically unwalkable but I'll definitely admit there are some great holes out there.

We played two other courses on the trip that aren't on any ranking lists. Wedgewood G&CC was a pleasant surprise - it's a lovely Robert Trent Jones Jr design and I really enjoyed the course. Wedgewood is a prototypical parkland country club course, with beautiful trees on a rolling piece of property and I was told that Jones Jr moved a relatively small amount of earth to build the course. I had a lot of fun playing Wedgewood and it definitely was the biggest surprise of the trip, as I knew nothing about the course prior to playing it.

My best score on the trip came at The Medallion Club, a 27-hole private club designed by Nicklaus' oldest son Jack II. They market the club as having three distinct nines, with one being a parkland, another more links-style and a third that plays through marsh and meadow. It's a bit of a tale, as all three seem to feature long, unplayable naturalized areas just off the fairways, which tighten the courses considerably. I hit a bunch of knockdown drivers to keep the ball in play and shot a very good 73 (+1) but my partner in crime for the trip, my wife's uncle Henry, had a much tougher go. He's about a 15 handicap and was able to break 90 at Muirfield and Longaberger but couldn't break 100 at Medallion due to all the trouble left and right of the fairways. It's just too much for a private club in my humble opinion. The club is great, the staff are wonderful and extremely friendly, our hosts were incredibly fun and generous but the course was only average.

Plans to play the Scarlet Course at The Ohio State University last week were scrapped due to a Nationwide Tour event being played. We also were supposed to play either The Golf Club, a Pete Dye design or Double Eagle, both of which are ranked highly in the myriad top 100 lists but games fell through at the last minute due to schedule conflicts. Perhaps another time...

I'll be writing extensive reviews of Muirfield Village, Scioto and Longaberger sometime in the autumn, as I still have to document my experiences at the four Bandon courses in addition to the five great courses I played in New York State in May.

Putting golf aside for a second, Columbus is a wonderful city and we had a great time on the trip. We stayed in the Easton Town Center, a 1.7-million square foot urban town center featuring pedestrian-friendly streetscapes, open-air gathering spaces, fountains, children’s parks, and more than 170 retail, entertainment and dining establishments. So there were plenty of things to do for my wife, my son and my mother-in-law (and my wife's aunt) while the guys were playing golf. Outside of Easton, they also spent a day at the Columbus Zoo and another day downtown, taking in the Science Center, among other things. The city is modern, clean and very safe and I can safely say that we'll be going back again sometime in the future. Gosh, I wish we had a Brio Tuscan Grille in St. Catharines! Great Italian!

My game has been getting better lately but I still haven't been able to finish rounds this year. Club Championship weekend is only two days away - with about four new guys who carry scratch indexes entering the Open Flight this year and the club making the curious decision to cut down to top 9 and ties in each flight after two days, I had a tough decision to make. You see, I've never finished better than 6th overall and last year, despite a very solid first two rounds of 76-76, I still found myself 11 shots back heading into the last day. I'd end up 17 shots back after all was said and done, finishing in a tie for 7th. Even when I played decently, I really can't compete with the best at our club.

So with my game a bit off this year, I have made the excruciating decision to drop out of the Open Flight and play in A flight instead. As a very competitive person, I can't tell you how much it upsets me but I have to be a realist - I'm just not a good enough player to go against these college scholarship kids and a couple of the great mid-amateurs at our club.

I'll have to get ready for some major ribbing from my friends for this decision. Open Flight plays from the tips but the other flights play from the middle tees, something I absolutely detest and I usually end up scoring WORSE even at the shorter yardage.

That all said, at least I'll have a good chance of being competitive and that's something I just can't say if I played Open again this year.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Tidying Up a Bit

Just a little 'summer cleanup' going on here at Now on the Tee.

The right sidebar was becoming a bit of an eyesore so I've done a bit of restructuring, specifically to my course reviews.

There was a lot of redundancy in the links there, as I previously organized things by the respective magazine ratings. So I had different sections for Golf Digest (Top 100 in America, Top 100 Public, Top 100 International), Golf Magazine (Top 100 in the World, Top 100 in America, Top 100 You Can Play) and ScoreGolf Magazine (Top 100 in Canada).

That's all cleaned up now and I've just listed the ranked courses that I've reviewed one time by country. In addition, I've listed all of the other ranked courses I've played but haven't reviewed as well. This will give you an idea of what is to come in the form of writeups in the future.

Needless to say, I have a lot of catching up to do.

I also installed a new section called "Next on the Tee", which essentially shows if any new or notable courses are on my upcoming schedule. As you can see, I'm heading to Columbus, Ohio in a few days with my family and will be playing some pretty good golf down there. We're scheduled to play Muirfield Village twice and play single rounds at Longaberger and Scioto. Wedgewood G&CC was a late substitute for the Scarlet Course at The Ohio State University, as the Scarlet is hosting next week's Nationwide Tour event. We're also scheduled for one more day and we'll either be playing The Golf Club or Double Eagle. I have a strong preference there but I'll be happy with whatever is scheduled.

It's going to be a great trip.

Moving on, I'd like you to check out my friend John's most recent blog post on his golf trip out west. John is a North Carolina native and is currently serving in the U.S. Coast Guard and I had the distinct pleasure of watching his booming drives at Bandon Trails in March. John gave his side of the story on my 'bear sighting' while searching for a ball on the 12th hole at Trails, something I recapped in my Bandon trip report a few weeks back.

I've also added a link to John's blog in the right sidebar.

Speaking of which, where is my long-overdue and much-promised review of Bandon Dunes? I'm going to shock the world and promise that you'll see the rarest of things at Now on the Tee...

Two posts in two days!

Ah, who am I kidding? Well, either way, come back soon!