Saturday, September 30, 2006

Pine Valley Golf Club



The Crump Cup

Pine Valley is a very difficult course to gain access to, however, they admit the public once a year to view the final day of the Crump Cup championship. They allow you to walk the course unescorted. The great thing is that there are normally only a handful of matches of the course and you are allowed to walk wherever you want and I generally choose to walk the holes ahead of the match and can usually do so in quiet isolation. I don’t have any pictures of the course to share because they don’t allow you to bring a camera. You are also not allowed in the pro shop or clubhouse. Nevertheless, it may be the only way some of us will ever see the course.


A Reader's Impression of Pine Valley

I am waiting until I play the course to provide my personal impressions of the experience but I would like to share with you the experience of a reader who wrote to me after playing the course a couple of weeks ago. His passion and excitement are reflected in his writing. I can’t wait to play.

"I just returned from a memorable East Coast Swing, albeit short - it was indeed sweet. I now can just sum up all of the top 100 questers in the world like yourself by stating it all ends at Pine Valley. I have now played about 30 top 100's (depending on which year’s list) and Pine Valley definitely stands alone. That includes all of the top 25's that I have seen. It is golf's Holy Grail. It is a Mecca of perfection from A to Z. It is simply the best experience on this planet. Experiencing it ranks number four in my lifetime achievements, behind my wedding and the birth of my two sons. It is not just the course, but the whole package. If you could ever dream up how does it right, just blueprint everything about the place. Starting with the property itself, continuing to clubhouse, the cottages, and the simplicity of what a true great golf experience should be. It has it all. I had the privilege of a Saturday night dinner (that was exceptional yet simple - New York strip med. rare, a fine Bordeaux, incredible pie for dessert) followed by Port and Cuban cigars on the terrace. I was the first to stay overnight in my room in the new cottage building.

Perfection again with a simple room designed only for a comfortable night's sleep (A members mattress company provided the beds and it is so comfortable - many members order them for their own houses). The room only includes a flat screen television and an incredible overhead shower. No locks on any doors, no telephones, nothing written anywhere re. rules, etc. So we awake to breakfast (a small buffet that appeases a simple early a.m. appetite) and then golf. A perfect driving range, large and immaculate, of course with Pro V-1s. Before our early a.m. tee off, I noticed the course workers dragging the fairways to remove the morning dew and dry the fairways. Wow. Have not seen that at Riviera, LACC or anywhere for that matter. Then 18 different holes of absolute perfection. Waste areas, waste areas, waste areas. Perfect fairways, perfect rough, perfect greens. A layout and routing unmatched by any course in the world. With due respect to Old Tom, H.S., C.B., Dr. Mackenzie, Tillie, Raynor and Thomas.........Mr. Crump is the greatest golf architect that ever lived. Pine Valley is all he needed.

The caddies there are as great and colorful as any lot at St. Andrews or Augusta. On the course they even address members by first names and nicknames. It is not about the pomp at Pine Valley, it is about the golf and the nirvana like experience. The only yardage markers you see are codes on a few sprinkler heads.....for the caddies. Wow. No smoking on the golf course. Yes! No rakes on the golf course. Brilliant! After playing many of the holes you may have heard about or seen pictures of in books, magazines, the Golf Atlas on the web, etc., you come to the 13th tee and finish with best of the best. What a string of six finishing holes. Awesome.

I love the fact that there are only 350 members. A perfect amount. And women are not allowed to set foot on the property until Sundays after 1:00 p.m. Annika herself who wanted to play there this year was resigned to only that brief window of time. Love it! Tiger has never seen the course, albeit he has been invited. Trevino played there for the first time last year. I feel blessed, and as if my life is complete having had the whole Pine Valley experience. Passing thru the gates one gets the feeling of achieving a physical and spiritual wholeness. It is truly AWESOME.

If you can, save it for last. Play it after 99 others. Then go to heaven. "

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Quote from today's Guardian (UK) from Colin Montgomerie. It must be the best course in the world if Monty says so.

"8. Favourite course?

I played the 1985 Walker Cup in a place called Pine Valley in New Jersey, about two hours south of New York, which is the best course in the world and has been ranked that way for 20 years. The best links course in Britain is Turnberry. It definitely has the most character. I'm delighted that the Open is going to be back there in 2009. The best inland course is Loch Lomond. They are my three favourite courses to play."

Top 100 Golfer said...

From the Financial Times October 28, 2006. Tim Yeo is a columnist for the FT, a member of parliament, Royal St. George's and Sunningdale. Not a bad life. Hard to disagree with his comments on Prestwick.

You haven't played golf until you've played here
By Tim Yeo


"I'm going to Pine Valley for a weekend soon," said the voice on my mobile phone. "Would you like to come?" For an enthusiastic but inexperienced student of America's golf courses, invitations don't get much better than this. Sir Ronnie Hampel, for whom I had done a very small favour earlier in the summer, was now responding in spades. In a year already overflowing with golf treats, this promised to be a highlight, especially as he suggested we play Merion, just restored to the US Open Championship circuit, as well.

A more subtle question than the familiar one about which is your favourite course is: Which courses must you have played by the time the Grim Reaper calls? There are some obvious choices. Few people would dispute that the Old Course at St Andrews, Augusta National and Muirfield are absolute requirements. And unless you've dined at the long table at Prestwick after a 36-hole foursomes match, there exists a gap in your experience that nothing else can fill.


FT Weekend readers will have other candidates for inclusion in this category and e-mail suggestions are welcome. It's beyond doubt, however, that you're a golfing virgin until you've experienced Pine Valley in New Jersey. From the moment we crossed the single-track railway line and glimpsed the 18th hole, it was obvious this was a very special place indeed. Warmly welcomed, we were directed to Perrin Cottage, named after the club's first chairman, a comfortable four-bedroom residence with an open fire, powerful showers and its own floodlit putting green.

At dinner in the spacious and pleasantly informal clubhouse we sampled the snapper soup, into which I sloshed liberal quantities of sherry from one of the decanters that adorn every table. Later in the Big Room, malt in hand, we admired the portrait of the inspiration and founder of Pine Valley, George Crump, who sadly died before his dream reached fruition. Later still, in the ghostly light of a full moon, we drove our buggy back to the cottage along silent tree-lined roads.

Next morning, we breakfasted regally in a private room, our ranks swollen by the arrival of Ronnie's sons and their guests. Venturing on to the course I recalled that few golfers break 90 in their first round at Pine Valley. By the time we reached the old water tower beside the 12th tee where refreshments are served, I still harboured fanciful notions of doing so but should have known better. After three-putting for the fourth time on the big 13th green and pulling my tee shot into the water at the spectacular downhill short 14th, the normal order of things reasserted itself.

The magnificence of the course, rated the best in the world by many authorities greater than me, exceeded my highest expectations. The 18 holes are varied, distinct, geographically separate and beautiful. The golf is difficult and demands every shot in the book. The greens are fast and tricky. Bogeys may be relatively easily achieved but pars are tough and disaster lurks so often, there's not a moment you can drop your guard.

After four rounds in three days I was used to the distinctively American hoot of trains passing in the distance and not distracted by my caddy's racy description of the services available at a nearby establishment and its tariffs, though floored by his blunt inquiry: "How much does a hooker cost in London?" I did, however, acquire a modest familiarity with the course and concluded it would take a very long time indeed to tire of the excitement and joy of playing here.

Pine Valley is so large that golfers can genuinely cut themselves off completely from everything else except golf.

Anonymous said...

Adding some FYI:

There are nearly 1200 members at Pine Valley. Many are overseas, but there are at least 350 reasonably local members.

Women had equal playing status at PVGC until the mid-1950's, the 12N Sunday is often stretched a little bit and the women who play there are generally better than a lot of the men who do play there. The women also now have a little clubhouse access whereas previously they changed shoes in a small bathroom (Including Supreme Court Justice O'Connor when she played) and had beverages outside.

From the reader write-up:
"A layout and routing unmatched by any course in the world. With due respect to Old Tom, H.S., C.B., Dr. Mackenzie, Tillie, Raynor and Thomas.........Mr. Crump is the greatest golf architect that ever lived."

The overwhelming majority of those architects and more such as Wm.Flynn all designed PV and it is coming to light that Harry Shapland Colt may be as responsible for the routing and architectural details of PVGC as any man.

r

Anonymous said...

I have had the pleasure of playing Pine Valley with my father who is a member. I've never had to think so much on a golf course. Very demanding. I usually score about a low 80 and was happy to get out of there with a mid 90's. I you miss the fairways you are more than likely going backwards to get out of trouble. One of my favorite father son events possible. I am truly lucky.

Anonymous said...

i see that one commenter has already corrected the number of members (over 1000). i had the opportunity to play this wonderful course early in the week, and the range balls are not pro v1's. they are titleist nxt's, my guess is that the membership would find pro v1 range balls to be "over the top." i was impressed with the little touches of modesty all around the property.

Anonymous said...

I spent 2 nights on the grounds and played several rounds. my main memory was the initial entrance through the front gate. I had a combination orgasm and heart attack at that moment.

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Anonymous said...

Correction to above; range balls are, in fact, Pro V1's.

Anonymous said...

was there today for the Crump Cup and the range balls are in fact Pro V1. The range is nicer than most golf courses! Just spectacular!