Monday, January 01, 2007

2006 The Year in Review

It has been exactly one year since I began writing my blog. While I have been playing the courses for a much longer period of time, actually writing about them began on New Years Day 2006. It has been a rich experience, forcing me to think hard about what makes a course unique or great as opposed to just writing that I like it or not.

I have included hyperlinks in this post on courses played in 2006 in case you missed a writeup on the course you can just click.

2006 turned out to a very strong golf year. One of my personal goals is to always play 50 rounds of golf a year and I achieved it and then some this year. I was also able to play fifteen new courses on the top 100 list and play golf on three continents. I was also surprised to see that I have readers in sixty countries including such far-flung places as Azerbaijan, Mauritius and Kazakstan (could it be the famous lover of the U.S. & A?). I was also surprised to see how many people appreciate my idiotic sense of humor.

I was fortunate enough to be able to play Maidstone again this year and this time brought my digital camera. The 14th hole, a par three along the Atlantic Ocean is one of my personal favorite holes and I have included two pictures of it in this posting.


The world-class 14th at Maidstone

During 2006 I also completed (again) the perfect trifecta of playing Maidstone, Shinnecock and The National all in the same year. Standing on the 17th tee box at The National, it is hard not to feel on top of the world. You stand at the highest point on the course with the windmill behind you, the Shinnecock clubhouse on the hill in the distance, the National clubhouse on your side, a view of the Sebonack Golf Club to your left, the punchbowl green below you, Peconic Bay stretching out below you and one of the great holes in golf awaits you. Mountain climbers strive to climb Everest. You've reached one of golf's summits when you climb out of the punchbowl green to the 17th tee at The National. It was made even more special this year playing with three new friends in the brilliant sunshine.

As the year began, I thought it would be remembered for playing the Open Championship courses in England. I planned on playing the four courses in England on the Open rota - Royal Birkdale, Royal Lytham & St. Annes, Royal St. George's and Royal Liverpool. I did indeed play all four and came away forever changed by my experience. Royal Liverpool and Royal St. George's in particular, were out of this world, despite my little incident at Royal St. George's.

When the year began I hadn't anticipated playing any courses in the U.S. heartland. As fate would have it I ended up playing five - Southern Hills in Oklahoma, Prairie Dunes in Kansas, Crystal Downs in Michigan, Inverness in Ohio and Sand Hills in Nebraska. Amazingly, three of them are ranked in the top 25 in the world. All of this is chalked up to serendipity. I'm very flexible when presented with the opportunity to play a top golf course. It's a good lesson to extend to your life beyond golf as well; be flexible and see where it takes you. Undertaking this quest has changed my whole outlook on life. For example, when flying previously, I never, ever spoke to passengers around me. I flew in quiet isolation; in solitary reflection; in peace. Now, I actually embrace the chatty seat-mate and most people I meet. You never knows who you'll meet. I have come into contact with a gentleman on the waiting list to get into Augusta National, several members of clubs on my list and several other interesting golf related characters.


14th at Maidstone from behind the green

The bad news for me in 2006 is that playing Sand Hills has actually dampened the experience of playing all the other courses, just a little bit. Every course played is now compared to Sand Hills. Sand Hills is such a good course and unique place that in the back of my mind a little voice keeps saying, "this is great, but Sand Hills is better."

Low-lights for the year include Medinah, being pulled over in the middle of the night by army troops in the Dominican Republic after playing Casa de Campo and being hit up on at Prairie Dunes. The year was capped off with a once in a lifetime golf trip to Africa (my next post) that featured monkeys as my gallery and a brief visit with Bishop Tutu.

I have also completed another major milestone in 2006, having completed over half the world's top courses. To celebrate this feat I have taken at crack a ranking the top courses, broken down into U.S. and non-U.S. listed below. I have added in other courses I have played that are not ranked, just to give them perspective relative to the others. The list is obviously not complete, I will provide a complete personal integrated list when I complete the top 100.

I tentatively have lined up another 10-12 courses for the new year, hopefully included in there will be my aspirational French course Morfontaine. Perhaps I will see some of you on my planned travels.

Happy New Year, looking forward to a strong 2007!

Non-US Ranking

1. Carnoustie
2. Sunningdale (Old)
3. Royal St. George’s
4. Royal Portrush (Dunluce)
5. Royal County Down
6. Woodhall Spa
7. St. Andrews (Old)
8. Kingsbarns
9. Cruden Bay
10. North Berwick (West)
11. Royal Dornoch
12. Ballybunion (Old)
13. Turnberry (Ailsa)
14. Royal Liverpool
15. Muirfield
16. Prestwick
17. Ganton
18. Walton Heath (Old)
19. Old Head
20. Casa de Campo
21. Durban
22. St. Andrews (New)
23. Lahinch
24. Ballybunion (Cashen)
25. Royal Troon (Old)
26. Ballyliffin (Old)
27. Portmarnock
28. Royal Aberdeen
29. Machrahanish
30. Royal Lytham & St. Annes
31. Crail (Old)
32. Gleneagles (Kings)
33. Wentworth (West)
34. European Club
35. Royal Birkdale
36. Royal Portrush (Valley)
37. Crail (Craighead)
38. Lossiemouth (Moray Old)
39. Tralee
40. St. Andrews (Jubilee)
41. Nairn
42. Dunbar
43. Waterville
44. Gleneagles (Queens)
45. Druids Glen
46. The K Club
47. Western Gailes
48. Gullane #1
49. Brora
50. Addington
51. Skibo Castle
52. Royal Troon (Portland)
53. Turnberry (Arran course) - now defunct

United States

1. Sand Hills
2. The National Golf Links of America
3. Merion (East)
4. Bandon Dunes
5. Pinehurst #2
6. Shinnecock Hills
7. San Francisco
8. Maidstone
9. Pacific Dunes
10. Crystal Downs
11. Garden City
12. Prairie Dunes
13. Bethpage (Black)
14. Oakmont
15. Pebble Beach
16. The Country Club (Brookline)
17. Inverness
18. Southern Hills
19. Los Angeles (North)
20. Myopia Hunt Club
21. Shadow Creek
22. Riviera
23. Winged Foot (East)
24. Winged Foot (West)
25. Olympic (Lake)
26. Kiawah (Ocean)
27. Baltusrol (Upper)
28. Baltusrol (Lower)
29. Bel-Air
30. Oak Hill (East)
31. Peachtree
32. Piping Rock
33. Whistling Straits
34. Fishers Island
35. Pinehurst #8
36. Aronomink
37. Torrey Pines
38. Blackwolf Run
39. Portland Country Club
40. TPC at Sawgrass
41. East Lake
42. World Woods
43. Troon (Scottsdale)
44. Bighorn
45. TPC at Summerlin
46. Pine Needles
47. Mayacama
48. Country Club of North Carolina
49. Medinah #3
50. PGA West

1 comment:

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