Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Pure Golf 2010

One of the things I most enjoy about this quest is the people I meet. While playing Kingston Heath I met two young lads that make me look sane. Michael and Jamie are two New Zealand lawyers who have dropped out of society for a year to play golf around the world every single day consecutively in 2010. The best part is they are doing it on the cheap and are raising money for a worthy charity: The First Tee New Zealand. Their story is below from their website:

"puregolf2010 is a story about the Kiwi ethos. It was born out of a desire to challenge ourselves, and a challenge it certainly will be. But we're up for it. In 2010 we will play a round of golf at a different course every day of the year, around the world, to raise money for The First Tee New Zealand. Our journey starts on 1 January 2010 at Kauri Cliffs and will finish on 31 December 2010 at Cape Kidnappers. A calendar year, no less. In between, we will travel through New Zealand, Australia, the United States, the UK, northern Europe and parts of Asia. Perhaps other countries too. Along the way we will play many of the world's best golf courses, meet a bunch of interesting people and generally experience life outside our comfort zone. The plan is also to raise a significant amount of money too. puregolf2010, first and foremost, is an adventure. It embodies for us the truism that life is too short. Golf every day for a year...why not?"



I bumped into them three months into their journey. They are looking for help, a bed to sleep in and a host to play various courses. I plan on helping them when they come to the east coast of the U.S. People have been most kind to me thoughout my travels and it's a small thing I can do to pay back the fraternity of crazy golfers out there.

If you are interested in doing so, please reach out to them. They are gentleman and it's for a great cause!

Their itinerary is below:

20 February - 9 May Australia (NSW, VIC, SA, ACT, QLD)
9 May - 10 July United States
10 July - 10 October United Kingdom & Ireland
10 October - 30 October Europe (likely France, the Netherlands and Germany)
30 October - 12 November United Arab Emirates
12 November - 20 November Singapore & Hong Kong (Mission Hills)
20 November - 26 November Perth
26 November - 1 December Sydney
December New Zealand (predominantly south island)

They do a daily blog, which is quite good. Their website: puregolf2010

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Good Morning from Adelaide

The sun is rising in Adelaide and it's going to be another perfect day. Adelaide is a beautiful city in South Australia, an hour west of Melbourne by air. I have never been anywhere where the clock is 30 minutes off the rest of the world. We reset our clocks a half hour when we landed. Adelaide is a city of a million and a half people near the Australian wine country and it has a western feel to it as seen in the architecture below.

A little photo montage of the trip before we're off to play Royal Adelaide.


Rundle Street, Adelaide

Adelaide University



The 15th hole, Kingston Heath



Flinders Street Station, Melbourne



The fifth hole, New South Wales


The fourth hole, Barnbougle Dunes, Tasmania

Golf in Australia has been ridiculously good. Notice I showed only three holes. If you just judged Australia by the strength of these holes, you can get some sense of how exciting it has been to play here.

Every single place I have visited in Australia so far I have said to myself, I can move or retire here with no problem. I can see why I needed a visa to get into the country. It's so they can keep track of you and make sure you don't just stay and never go home!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

My Long Journey to Australia

To state the obvious, flying to Australia takes a long time. Among the many activities I engaged in on my long flight was to watch three movies including Titanic. It is a little known trivia tidbit that the White Star Lines named all their ships to end in the letter "ic". Their other ships were the Celtic, Republic, Adriatic, Germanic, Olympic and Britannic.

This got me thinking...

I quite enjoyed the film because director James Cameron has created a realistic movie. Kate Winslet was erotic, the scenes with Leonardo DiCaprio were romantic and those closeup shots in her cabin were borderline pornographic. The ships fate, as we all know, was tragic primarily because Captain Smith was so myopic. Even though the scene of the ship sinking was graphic, it's a cinematic tour-de-force.

This was my first time flying Qantas and I was impressed. We flew a gigantic 747, which I like, because of the upper deck's conic shape; these planes have an aerodynamic ride. The pragmatic captain let us know that he was going on avionic automatic pilot and that our flight path would be erratic because some volcanic activity off Japan was changing either the atmospheric or barometric pressure. I wasn't sure which one because while he was announcing there was static. When he switched the system on, I could see the hydraulic mechanism on the wing move. It seemed he was using sound logic as he gave us periodic monosyllabic updates.

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Qantas clearly took a holistic, some would say futuristic, approach when they designed the interior of the cabin. They used a very soothing synthetic psychedelic fabric and meals were served on ceramic china and not plastic. The charismatic flight attendants were a little spastic and their service erratic, but, I can't criticize them because the ethnic people in my section of the plane were very eclectic.

They included an arthritic Hasidic who appeared to find most foods allergic as well as a Sephardic Hispanic who was phlegmatic. Next to him was an Islamic heretic wearing a tunic who looked like some kind of academic and was on a macrobiotic bariatric diet. As amazing as it sounds, he was traveling with a newborn suffering from colic. The Irish woman across the aisle was no doubt a catholic film critic, as she appeared to be quite a skeptic and cynic in addition to being fluent in Gaelic. Rounding out the group was an antagonistic geriatric Slavic woman who was bulimic and a chic Arabic gentleman who spent the flight listening to music and reading the biography of Katie Couric while playing with a rubric cube. Luckily, there were no Belgians on the flight, thus none of the people seated near me were pedantic, idiotic or moronic. Looking back on our little section of the plane, we were a pretty pathetic group.

I settled into the flight by taking an analgesic to calm my nerves as I am prone to panic attacks in public because I am agoraphobic. Dinner was your basic garlic and balsamic glazed arctic char in aspic with an organic turmeric sauce. As delicious as that sounds, I found it a bit acidic, almost to the point of being toxic. My dinner was washed down with my usual gin and tonic, but only one, since I'm a borderline alcoholic. Rounding out the gastronomic fare was a terrific desert. It was a bit too caloric for me, but tasted orgasmic. After dinner I used the lavatory and found it hygienic owing to the fact that everything in it was electric. Before returning to my seat, I washed my hands with the Aussie hypoallergenic antiseptic soap provided.

The turbulence over the Pacific was horrific, but after it passed the drone of the engines was hypnotic. After I dozed off, my sleep was episodic because the loud guy in seat 4A was so bombastic. Perhaps I was wrong and there were Belgians on board. During the flight a chronic diabetic became ill. Luckily, there was a homeopathic medic from the Mayo clinic on board. After a quick diagnostic he prescribed a simple diuretic instead of an antibiotic. I tried to settle down after this incident and took out the latest issue of National Geographic, which you will note I have properly spelled in its italic.

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Sydney's Harbour Bridge


I didn't fly directly to Australia but stopped in the birthplace of President Obama. I found Hawaii to be both exotic and idyllic and can see why it makes people behave hedonistic. The cigar I enjoyed on my brief stop there was aromatic. Although the cocktail waitress at my hotel was flirting with me quite a bit, and we engaged in a little frolic, nothing of a phallic nature occurred and our relationship remained platonic.


Landing in Australia after all that flying left me both manic and euphoric. Getting through customs at Kingsford Smith Airport in Sydney was no picnic. I hope long lines are not symptomatic of what I will find in Australia. As I am not a particularly patient person and waiting in hectic, long lines sometimes makes me go ballistic. Once you exit customs there are Australian flags everywhere in this patriotic country.

For the record, Australia is a commonwealth, and not a republic. While I don't know a lot about domestic issues here, I will try to be sympathetic to the plight of the Aboriginal people. Based purely on what I saw at the airport Australians appear to be diplomatic and have a good work ethic. I don't know if it's a emblematic of the nation as a whole, but they appear to be prolific beer drinkers.

Since I'm naturally optimistic, I'm glad to be here. I hope the trip turns out as fantastic as I have hoped. I can't wait to see the iconic Opera House again, with its panoramic view of the harbor. It of course houses the philharmonic. From everything I've read and seen Royal Adelaide looks like a classic course; Royal Melbourne is sure to be historic; the pictures I've seen of New South Wales seem scenic and dramatic; Barnbougle looks rustic and Kingston Heath, majestic. I have also read that it requires heroic shots to hit the greens.

I can't wait to get out and enjoy the fresh air. After being cooped up in a plane for so long I have pain in my pelvic region and am somewhat lethargic. I could benefit from the aerobic exercise that golf brings and I hope to increase my metabolic rate walking the courses. I'm also hoping I get good caddies and that none of them turn out to be either antagonistic or robotic.




Melbourne

When I started this journey I was approached by many a skeptic. Is this realistic, they would ask? Well, it's certainly not economic, since the costs of this odyssey are approaching the astronomic. Now that I'm visiting my twelfth country, it has truly evolved into a quest of epic proportions and the outcome now appears fatalistic. If you've read this far you know I'm clearly a confirmed lunatic and a certified golf fanatic. I hope you find my blog both comic and didactic. I can see why my journalistic standards might not be to everyone's liking, as I can sometimes be theatric. This journey is truly a quixotic one. I think once I've finished it, I am going to need psychiatric help.

My lineup includes New South Wales, Barnbougle, Lost Farm, Royal Adelaide, Kingston Heath and Royal Melbourne and will be back with golf writeups soon.



The Lodges at Barnbougle Dunes

Monday, March 15, 2010

Top 100 Golf Course Trivia Quiz

Fancy yourself a golf course aficionado? A world traveler who prides yourself on your ability to differentiate a Shinkansen from Wisconsin? Can you tell Yorkshire from New Hampshire? Ok, all you self-assured golf course nuts, now is the time to test your knowledge of the top 100 courses in the world with our trivia quiz.

Email your answers to me to be eligible to win an all-expenses-paid trip around the world touring top golf courses. Actually, our lawyers told me to strike that. Instead, you will be eligible to win a slightly marked up ball from The Fishers Island Club.

The courses to choose your answers from are those listed along the left side of the blog. Must be 21 to enter and all decisions of the judges (me) are final. As the Yankees are reigning world champions, No Red Sox fans please. There is a total of 25 points eligible plus two bonus points. Extra credit will be given if you point out a flaw in either one of my questions or answers (fat chance).

I will post the answers in 30 days.

1. What course was Winston Churchill a member of?

2. What course is also its own self contained township?

3. What course has held Olympic events on its property?

4. On what course will you find wicker baskets?

5. What is the closest you will get to the Playboy Mansion while playing the top 100?

6. What course do you have to drive through Sherwood Forest to get to?

7. What course do you travel past a nuclear submarine base to get to?

8. At what course will you enjoy the lobster lunch?

9. What course will not let women anywhere on the property?

10. What is the most copied hole in the world? Where did it originate? For extra credit, how many of them are there in the top 100?

11. What course features a cemetery as a hazard on the first hole?

12. What course has no pro shop?

13. What course features a Squirrel as its symbol?

14. What course served as a training ground for spies during the Second World War?

15. What course's 13th hole is named 'Loch Lomond'?

16. What is the northern-most located course on the top 100 and the southern-most?

17. Which course has cops guarding several holes?

18. What course did Dwight Eisenhower suffer a heart attack on while he was President?

19. What course features a full-size hangman's noose on its 16th hole?

20. What course do you begin the day by hitting a (basically) blind shot over a hedge row?

21. What course has a train running through the middle of it? Extra credit for a list of courses with trains running alongside the course.

22. Which course formerly had a race course running through the land?

23. What architect designed the most courses in the top 100?

24. Where are Miss Grainger's Bosoms located?

25. Where is the 'End Hole' bunker?

Monday, March 01, 2010

Camargo Club


I left my flight itinerary to Cincinnati on the kitchen table and was busy laying on the couch watching TV when I heard, "Is this another golf trip? You're out of control."

I recognized the tone of voice immediately and knew I was in trouble. It's the voice reserved for use before the kids are put into "time out." I have a fabulous wife who is beyond accommodating. For some reason, the big golf trips don't bother her, as she figures going to Ireland or Pebble Beach to play golf is a deserved vacation. It's these little trips that set her off for some reason. "Haven't you gone to Ohio three times already to play golf?" I find it best not to respond in these situations, and yes, I have indeed gone to Ohio three times before for golf. Attempting to explain how Ohio is one of the best golfing states in the country would have fallen on deaf ears.

I was on my way to Ohio again to play Camargo Club (ranked #63 in the world), which was built in the early 1920s during the golden era of golf course architecture. Seth Raynor, who also designed Yeamans Hall, Fishers Island and Shoreacres, designed and routed the course; however, he died prior to the course being completed. The course was completed by one of his associates, "Steamshovel" Banks, whom I have previously mentioned in my Whippoorwill post. They did a spectacular job. Camargo is one of the finest places I have ever played golf.

The beguiling course is situated on rolling terrain and has a masterful routing within a large swath of land that makes you feel like you are in a park. There are no houses surrounding the course and there is a large buffer around the edge that gives Camargo an open feel. The sweeping vistas create a sensational impression. Similar to Piping Rock on Long Island, the course was routed around a polo field, as you can see from the course map below.





As is typical of Raynor or Macdonald courses, the design has all the prototypical holes you would expect, such as a Biarritz, Eden, Short, Redan, Road, Alps and Punchbowl. I liked the feel of Camargo right from the get go. It's not hard to see why looking at the approach to the first green seen below. You can see how great the hilly terrain is and also note how the course has an almost polished look to it, given the beauty of the meandering fairways and gently rising hills.





C1st hole
Camargo's first hole, "Leven", approach to the green



This hole, like many at Camargo, plays longer than the 390 yards on the card because you hit to an elevated table top green.



C 2nd sq green
Par five second, with its rectangular green


The picture above is from the second green. This 529 yard par five is a big sweeping dogleg to the right that features an uphill tee shot followed by a shot down into a valley and then another shot back up again to the green. As at Yeamans Halls, the geometric look is characteristic of many greens at Camargo.



3rd fairway
The uphill third fairway


The third hole is a short 320 yard par four ("Leven") that plays over a ravine, up a hill, to a green that is set at an angle to the fairway and is well bunkered. You can again see one of the essential elements of Camargo, which is its aesthetic beauty. It just has a look to it that is very pleasing to the eye. Similar to the effect achieved with an Italian Renaissance garden or a formal French garden, the use of symmetry and the manner in which the landscape is tied together is brilliant. There is something that's hard to describe about how all the angles come together and make it look artistic. I know it's just a golf course and I'm getting all lathered up here, but even on a cloudy day this place shines!



3rd behind green
The third green from behind


The above picture is the elevated green on the third hole as seen from behind, which shows the extent of the bunkering, which I found very similar to the bunkering on the 8th and 14th holes at the C.B. MacDonald designed Chicago Golf Club.

The alluring par three fifth hole is an "Eden" prototype. It is set in an idyllic, quiet little alcove. It's one of the best holes I've played and a real beast at 179 yards. It is in a secluded spot, carved out of the woods, and what makes it so terrifying is the angle the green is set at from the tee. When standing on the tee box there are dense trees surrounding you for almost 360 degress. The long, narrow green is set at an obtuse angle to the tee and has a huge bunker along the left hand side and a fifteen foot fall off.



4th green
The "Eden", par three fifth hole


As I usually do, I did my research before playing Camargo and had read that it had the best collection of par threes outside of Cypress Point, which set my expectations high. Seeing the fifth hole didn't dampen my expectations.

Given the wind conditions on the day we played, I thought holes 7-9, the "Alps", "Biarritz" and "Long" holes, were the toughest stretch on the course. The Biarritz hole plays 227 yards and is a bear. Check the box on another great par three. Like the truly great courses (Pine Valley, Cypress, Somerset Hills, National, Sunningdale), Camargo has a great routing where nothing feels forced and it follows the terrain naturally.


10th green

The par four tenth green


The tenth hole, "Shinnecock," is a sweeping dogleg to the left and as seen above, has a green that is typical of Camargo: large and elevated with sharp angular fall offs and very deep bunkers.

The breathtaking prototype "Short" hole is the eleventh. It plays 140 yards from the back tees to a green set below you. Although the hole is not long, you have to hit the green or you are in trouble. The green, like all greens at Camargo, is large, which makes it a challenge if you are not close to the pin. How many par threes can you recall that look prettier than this? Not even including the par three Redan hole, I actually do think this place might have the best par threes outside of Cypress. Maybe Woodhall Spa and Pine Valley would be in the running also, but Camargo would be on any short list.



11 short
The par three "Short" eleventh green


The club keeps a low profile, and this is a good thing. One of the things that makes golf such a great pursuit is that you get to play in historic venues such as Camargo. It is an unspoiled masterpiece. Thanks to an enlightened membership, the course has changed little since it was built, and it is like being transported back in time. It's as if you are able to step back in time and play baseball at the Polo Grounds or Ebbets Field in 1922. The club hired Tom Doak to do restoration work several years ago. Apparently, he restored many of the greens to their original larger sizes as they had been made smaller over the years. Aside from the Old Course at St. Andrews, I can't remember a course that has bigger greens than Camargo. Combine Doak's work with a greenskeeper who is at the top of his game and you get a course that sparkles.



17th green-1
The seventeenth ("Road Hole") green


The seventeenth ("Road Hole") is one of only two par fives on the course. This closeup shot of the Pac-Man shaped green shows how masterfully Raynor and Banks could use "squared off" shapes and sharp angles, yet still somehow have the course retain such a natural look.

Camargo is short by today's standards at 6,659 yards from the back tees, and there is no water on the course. The primary defense the course has is the hilly terrain and greens with a multitude of protections: deep bunkering, the greens' large size and their big undulations.


18th
The eighteenth fairway as seen from the tee


Having now completed all five world-ranked courses in Ohio, I would rank them in the following order: 1. Camargo 2. The Golf Club 3. Muirfield Village 4. Inverness 5. Scioto.

The Club

Like at Yeamans Hall, the clubhouse is my favorite type: understated. It reminded me of the Valley Club of Montecito inside with its small locker room with original wooden lockers and a very cozy, miniscule bar area with dark wood. These 1920s vintage clubhouses are worth their weight in gold. We played on a chilly fall day and it proved an ideal place for an apr├Ęs round drink.



Camargo Clubhouse
Camargo's intimate clubhouse


The club logo shown on the scorecard has a shoe and gun above the crest, as well as a polo mallet and a golf club. The explanation is that Camargo has a skeet shooting range (which is about to close), tennis, platform tennis and two polo fields (not in use any more). The logo incorporates all the sports pursued at the club.

So what exactly is a Camargo anyhow? There are several schools of thought. Among the members, some believe it comes from the French ballerina named Camargo, which is the subject of a painting hanging in the clubhouse. Others believe the club was named after a Mexican border town of the same name.


The French Ballerina Camargo

As the Mrs. has surmised, I may indeed be out of control, but I'm having a hell of a time. My mates and I have a handful of rules we like to following for pursuing this quest: Be a polite guest, tip the caddies generously, play fast, always offer to pay for everything and send a thank you note when done. The cardinal rule, though, is: NEVER EVER ADD UP THE COST of this pursuit. Nothing good can ever come from it.

And it's a damn good thing my wife found the itinerary only, instead of the bill. I'm living the dream out here!


Post Script

When in Cincinnati, visit Graeters, a local institution that has been serving exceptional ice cream since 1870; it is worth a detour.