The 1st tee at Merion
By any measure 2007 was another banner year on my quest for golf's holy grail. I'm never quite sure how many courses I will be able to line up in advance with any certainty, but this year I was able to play eleven new courses on my list of the world's top one hundred. I visited five countries on my travels and have now completed playing 71 of the top 100.
It's interesting how certain themes develop each year, depending upon the mix of courses I end up playing. One of the themes this year was Jack Nicklaus. I visited the course he played as a young man, Scioto, and two courses he co-designed: Sebonack and Harbour Town.
Another theme that remained constant this year is that lovers of Fishers Island still think I'm an asshole. I've received more invective comments on my Fishers Island post than any other, although the comments on my Royal Troon polemic are piling up fast as well.
I visited the lowcountry of South Carolina and have now completed playing all three world-ranked courses in the state - Yeamans Hall, Harbour Town and the Ocean Course at Kiawah. Yeamans Hall was a discovery I shall remember for a long time. The understated elegance and majesty of the plantation setting, coupled with an absolutely world-class golf course, make it a special place.
The 15th at Friar's Head
Although I was not able to complete the Shinnecock-National-Maidstone triumvirate this year like I have in the past two years, I did manage to play an equally awesome triumvirate in Sebonack-National-Friar's Head. I have said it many times before, but will repeat it once again in case you didn't hear me: Long Island has the best collection of golf courses in the world.
I managed to access some very private clubs this year - Yeamans Hall, Chicago Golf and the cynosure of private clubs: The Links Club, arguably, three of the hardest clubs to gain access to. I also ran into Charles B. Macdonald again and again. His baronial statue looked right at me as I walked into Chicago Golf Club; his imposing portraits stared down at me from The National Golf Links, The Links Club and The Mid Ocean Club. Charley liked to create monuments to himself and if you undertake a similar journey you will no doubt keep running into him as I have.
The Valley Club of Montecito was a special treat for me not only because it is an Alister Mackenzie beauty but also because it's nice for me to be able to play golf in January in Southern California, when I can't play at home. St. George's in Canada also proved a worthy spot among the world's great golf courses.
I achieved another stretch goal in 2007 by crashing the gates of Morfontaine and managing to play this world-class French jewel. In addition, I played at Chantilly near Paris, which I will post soon, and made a discovery worthy of shouting about. My French journey was such a success, that I am now working on my dinner invitation to the Élysée Palace. I got such good feedback from the series of posts detailing my attempts to gain access to Morfontaine that for 2008 I am toying with the idea of doing a similar series on another course.
2007 represented several other milestones in my golfing education. I have now played all eight A.W. Tillinghast courses on the list including three under-the-radar courses that I liked: Baltimore, Somerset Hills and Quaker Ridge. I have also now completed playing all fourteen courses in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania on the list.
The phenomenon continues of interested readers who appreciate a farcical sense of humor, coupled with an eagle-eyed, on-the-ground assessment of many of the world's elite golf clubs. Last year I had readers in sixty countries; this year, I'm up to over 119 countries including such obscure places as Burkina Faso and Brunei Darussalam.
I also retain a special place in my heart for emails that I receive from the Byrn Mawr-ivy-league-private-jet-pied-a-terre-finishing-school crowd who are appalled that someone as crass as me has managed to infiltrate so many of their special places. Most of this crowd doubt the veracity of my trips. I can assure them, despite their loathing, everything I do is real.
Oh, I almost forgot to mention, I also played the #1 ranked golf course in the world last year: Pine Valley. That alone made 2007 a banner year all by itself and something most golfers dream of being able to do. I don't for one minute take any of this for granted and count my blessings every day.
I look forward to an equally productive 2008 where my travels may include a visit to the land of the rising sun.
God speed to all you traveling golfers out there!
P.S. - Congratulations to the good looking schlog in Ft. Collins who won his senior club championship and introduced me to Monica and Windmill Bob in 2007. His victory celebration at the Marine Hotel will be rememered for a long time.