Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Catching Up...For the Second Time this Year!

Sigh. Another month without a post right in the middle of golf season. It's been a very busy summer, filled with travel both for family and for golf. Here's a brief look at my last month on the golf course:

Colorado Golf Trip

Harris and I flew down to Colorado for a five day golf trip at the end of July. Upon arriving in Denver, we drove down to Colorado Springs to visit The Broadmoor. The East is the most notable of the courses onsite but they had an event running the day we visited so we were slotted in on the West Course. This course features holes designed by both Donald Ross and Robert Trent Jones Sr and while the conditioning was very good, there wasn't much memorable to the design beyond a few holes. And boy oh boy, is it tight off the tee! I got absolutely ripped apart, shooting an embarrassing 91, my highest score in over a decade I think! That all said, we had a wonderful day with Joe, our member host for the round.

From there, it was on to the Bill Coore/Ben Crenshaw design at Colorado Golf Club in Parker. Colorado GC was in final preparations for the Solheim Cup competition, which just concluded last week, so it was in great shape for our game. This was the second consecutive year I've visited Colorado GC and I really enjoyed the experience once again. We had a great host in Barry and we also got the chance to play again with Matt S, reliving our fun match at Ballyneal a few years previous. Harris didn't play great at Colorado so his trash talking was a bit muted on this occasion! Thankfully, I played much better here than I did at the Broadmoor and I think my 80 was the low score in our group of 12 or so that were out that day.

From there, it was on to Ballyneal and the inaugural Rota Tournament, a fourball event played at scratch with a whole bunch of sub-five handicappers. Harris and I had a fantastic time with a great group of guys at BN - Jim, our member host, organized a memorable event over three days and while Harris and I ended up losing two very close matches to fall into the consolation bracket, we came away satisfied with our performance and hopeful that we will be able to take part in future years.

It was a wonderful trip and it was great meeting up with old friends and meeting new ones.

The gorgeous Rota trophy

My opening tee shot in the Rota at amazing Ballyneal!

Lots of great conversation and camaraderie after our rounds...from left - Chris T (sitting), Jim B, Alex M, me, Matt S, Jim C, Wyatt H and Mitch E

An incredible sunset at Ballyneal...everyone grab their phones!!

Harris drinking out of the loser's goblet in memory of his shameful Canada Day match play loss to Jim C at Cabot Links in Nova Scotia!

The official group shot...with a couple of people conspicuous by their absence, most notably the eventual champions John K and Dusty S

Devil's Paintbrush

I've long hoped of visiting "The Paintbrush" and finally was given the opportunity to visit on the last weekend of July, just before our club championships. Steve and Thane, friends of mine from my home club, joined me on a Saturday morning to play one of the top courses in Canada.

If I'm being completely honest, I was a bit surprised by the lack of playability out there - a wet spring and summer has obviously led to the fescue being extremely lush and if you miss the fairway, you are pretty much dead. And when I mean dead, I don't mean you will have to wedge out...I mean that you will likely not even find your ball! It is a very tough test and while the fairways are wider than normal on this links-style course, you'll need to hit it very straight to find the short grass, especially in light of the three club winds that are the norm out there. Still, there's no disputing the architecture at the Brush, which is uniformly excellent but I was expecting to have a bit more fun than I did - it was a GRIND!

Club Championships at St. Catharines G&CC

Well, after suffering through a horrible slump all year, I opted to play in the A Flight instead of the Open, mostly because I didn't think I had a chance in hell of making the cut against a bunch of college scholarship athletes and all the scratch players at the club.

I'd shoot a brutal 84 in the opening round and I'd have to fight hard to shoot 76 in the second round, making the cut on the number. I'd play horribly on the last day, shooting another 84 that was only satisfying for the last shot I played, a missle of a 7-iron from 165 yards on the 18th hole that lipped out and settled 18 inches away in front of a huge gallery, giving the false impression I could actually play a bit. Little consolation...

I'd finish last among the players who made the cut in my flight.

New York/Connecticut Golf Road Trip

Two years ago, I won a round at Winged Foot in the Ben Cox charity auction put on by my friend Jim during his first 100 Hole Hike. I wasn't able to get down there in 2011 or 2012 but fortunately, the member host is someone I met back in 2011 when I visited Long Island and he was gracious enough to offer no expiry date on the game.

So I built an impromptu little two day trip around a game at Winged Foot. I'll go into much more detail in the future when I eventually do a writeup on my day but we played 18 holes on the West Course, the site of multiple US Opens, a Walker Cup, the 1997 PGA Championship and many other events then played the back nine on the East Course. Both are rated inside the top 100 on practically every ranking list and the day and evening I spent at this historic club unquestionably is one of the highlights in my golf life. Much more on that experience in a future blog post. I won't be doing a full pictorial, as the club has a policy against posting photos online but I'm sure a couple here will be okay!

This is one happy dude - the par five 9th on Winged Foot's West Course, with the 18th green of the East in the background to the right

The incredible vistas on Winged Foot's East Course as the sun sets

The next day I got in two rounds at courses in different states. First was 18 holes at the Course at Yale, where I had the distinct pleasure of playing with 11-time Yale club champion Bill Lee and his friend Gerry. Yale is a MASSIVE golf course, with a scale that rivals places like Bethpage Black. Conditioning was an issue due to heavy rains and a subsequent heat wave but the course is a marvel. I played like absolute garbage but you still couldn't wipe the smile off my face that morning!

The famous par three 9th hole, the Biarritz, at The Course at Yale...that's me STANDING in the middle of the 5' high depression!

I then made an hour long drive back into NY State and Scarsdale, just minutes down the road from Winged Foot, to play the A.W. Tillinghast gem Fenway Golf Club.

Fenway isn't as well known as many of the courses I've played but I'm sure the club is fine with that! They continue their restorative efforts with Gil Hanse, one of the hottest architects in the business right now, leading the way. I whipped around Fenway as a single with a caddy in about two hours and it was a great experience and a lovely course. Much more on Yale and Fenway in future blog posts as well!

The lovely par three 17th hole at the A.W. Tillinghast designed Fenway Golf Club in Scarsdale, New York

What's Next?

Boy, I'll tell you one thing that's next. I have a hell of a lot of course profiles to catch up on!

The golf season is definitely winding down and in about a month and a half I'll be putting the clubs away for the season. I likely will have a few more games outside my home club in the next six weeks, most notably a return game at the spectacular St. George's G&CC in Toronto, my second game there in as many years after going 20 years between my last visit! I'll be heading to St. George's next week and hope to bring my camera out for that round.

The only other course I'm scheduled to play is Monterra at the Blue Mountain Resort in Collingwood, Ontario. I've never visited the course before and I'll be playing in a business scramble in a couple weeks - about as fun as going to the dentist but I'll do my best to have a good time.

I'm also hoping to meet up with a North Carolina GCA'er making his first visit to Canada - Cory has a great group of courses lined up in the area and I hope to get out to one of them with him. I can also see a season-ending game at the fine Walter Travis designed Lookout Point with my friend Ryan but that's yet to be scheduled.

Hopefully I can find some time soon to continue my course profiles from California and work from there!