Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Hardest Course to Get On

My learned readers have spoken and agree that Augusta National is the hardest course in the United States to get on because you have to play with member and only fifteen or so live locally. Also, a member can only have three guests on the property at one time. For added difficulty, take a look at the list of members, half are CEOs or ex-CEOs and it's not particularly easy to wiggle an invite from the likes of Warren Buffett, Bill Gates or Lou Gerstner, Jr. 61% voted Augusta National as the most difficult course to get on.

I'm still trying to get on Augusta and have two leads I am pursuing. A friend recently played and send me a long email about the experience, which sounds better everytime I hear a new story. "My bed in the Berckman's Cabin was merely a place to lay down, the ability to sleep was impossible," pretty much sums up the experience.

Cypress Point came in as the second most difficult at 15%. Again, a small membership of 250 members, only 75 of whom live locally. Chicago Golf Club came in third at 8%, because there are only 125 total members. Fishers Island came in 4th at 7%, Seminole at 4% and Shinnecock at 1%. Let's keep the list in perspective, though, all six courses are exceedingly difficult to get access to.

Thank you for all those that took the time to vote. A new poll question regarding the best architect of all time has just been launched.

My next post is my ever popular year and review with reader comments, followed by Camargo.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

The World's Top 100 Photo Montage

The winter months always present a challenge to post new write-ups. Over the next couple of months we will present our year end review and some other interesting posts that will no doubt dazzle my readers. The year end review is always one of my favorites because I recount reader comments from throughout the year. I have a trip planned to Australia in March so the spring and summer should be filled with a rich line-up of new course postings.

At great sacrifice to my family and work I have been traveling the world in the service of my faithful readers to report back my view of the top golf courses in the world. I've been toting my digital camera for the last four and have accumulated a nice collection of photos from the far corners of the earth. Here for your viewing pleasure, I have assembled my own favorites together in one place. Alfred Hitchcock has also inspired me to insert a cameo appearance in one of the photos.

Like the lovely lass in Seinfeld, there have been no touch-ups. All my pictures are real and they're spectacular. Enjoy!

CP 15th-2

Cypress Point's par three 15th hole

Cypress 3rd Green

Cypress Point's par three 3rd green

CP 17th hole

Cypress Point's 17th along Monterey Bay

Val 2

The approach to Valderrama's second with the ubiquitous cork trees

LL 5th-1

The beauty of Loch Lomond's par three fifth hole


Rossdhu House, Loch Lomond's world beating clubhouse


The par three 14th at Crystal Downs in Michigan


Maidstone's par three fourteenth along the Atlantic Ocean

Myopia #9

The 9th hole at Myopia Hunt Club, Massachusetts on a fall day

6th racecourse

Sweeping the dew at Somerset Hills 6th hole, site of a former race track

15th hole

The view from the elevated tee on the 15th at Friar's Head, New York


Inside the clubhouse at The National Golf Links of America, New York

Sebonack 11th green

Sebonack's 11th hole at dusk, Southampton, New York


The exciting Entry drive at Yeamans Halls, Charleston, South Carolina


Seminole's pink clubhouse, Juno Beach, Florida


Sunrise at Cabo del Sol, Mexico


The desert meets the ocean at the 6th, Cabo del Sol, Mexico


The "horseshoe" third green at Yeamans Hall, South Carolina

11 short
The 11th, "Short" hole at Camargo Club, Cincinatti

approach to morfontaine

The mystical approach to Morfontaine, north of Paris

# 4 valliere

The wild par three 4th hole at Morfontaine's Valliere Course, France

Chantilly 17

The magical par three 17th hole at Chantilly, France

third hole

Durban's 3rd hole routed through the bush, South Africa


Durban's 17th hole with wild-undulating fairway, South Africa

N1 fairway

The narrow first tee shot at Naruo, near Kobe, Japan

Naruo tram

The automatic traction system that shuttles clubs around Naruo, Japan

H14 fwy

The massively sloping 14th fairway at Japan's Hirono Golf Club


The mist lifting on the 17th hole at Kawana Golf Club, Japan

The world-class par five 15th hole at Kawana, Japan

Prairie Dunes 8th

The uphill dog-leg, wavy fairway on the 8th hole, Prairie Dunes, Kansas

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Tom Clasby: Golf Magazine Panelist of the Year

The following was published on Golf.com on October 10, 2009. Nice article, but Tom broke the cardinal rule. And people think I'm obsessive!

By Joe Passov, Senior Editor, Golf Magazine.

Call it a hobby, a passion, or even a quest. GOLF Magazine is fortunate to boast no fewer than 12 Panelists who have played at least one version of the Top 100 Courses in the World. In the case of Panelist Tom Clasby, however, it's more accurate to label it an obsession. At least that's what his wife calls it.

In early 2009, Clasby knocked off Singapore Island Country Club, Malaysia's Royal Selangor Golf Club, Taiwan Golf Club and Wack Wack Golf Club in the Philippines. In doing so, Clasby became the only man in history to play every course that's ever appeared on any GOLF Magazine ranking list since the lists first appeared in 1979. Opinion is divided as to whether we should reward Clasby with a silver plaque or a session with a shrink. Either way, his accomplishment is remarkable. Understandably, the journey hasn't been without its perils. However, the affable 58-year-old Southern Californian takes it in stride.

"I started my quest 20 years ago," says Clasby. "My first wife didn't get it. My second wife got it." These days, Clasby takes his wife and 11-year-old son on as many excursions as possible. His job as an engineering business development consultant and his Olympic Club membership have provided Clasby with flexibility and access, but most of his conquests are born of sheer will — and boatloads of networking. He estimates he's flown 280,000 miles and spent roughly $230,000 to play them all. In the psycho-travel department, perhaps his 1999 trip to play Japan's Naruo C.C. stands alone: He left for Japan from L.A. on a Wednesday at noon and was back in L.A. on Friday at noon. Another nightmare itinerary took him to play Ireland's Old Head, South Africa's Durban Country Club and New Zealand's Paraparumu — in one trip. It amounted to 55 hours of flying in eight days, ten flights on five different carriers.

In all of this, Clasby is the perfect dinner companion, conversant on a wide variety of topics. Most of the "Clasbys" of the world are pretty one-dimensional. Not this Clasby. He's also visited 52 baseball parks in the U.S., sports real estate and professional engineering licenses and has successfully completed an Ironman Triathlon.

Best moment on a Top 100 course? "Getting engaged to my wonderful wife Ginger on the 18th tee box at Pebble Beach in 1993 was one of my all-time highlights." Toughest course to get onto? "Augusta National, by far! I got on because I was lucky enough to work the Masters as a forecaddie, which is almost equally impossible to playing the course itself. Some of the nicest, most understanding people helped, but it took five long years of begging and hounding everyone I ever met to get to these people." Courses he would not need to see again? "Royal Durban, which was surely mistaken for Durban Country Club in the early listing, and Marbella in southern Spain."

So what keeps Clasby going? We've got a dozen new courses on our World and U.S. Top 100 lists, so he's got a few trips to make to stay current. Kudos to Clasby, however: He's already played nine of them. Hey, what can you say — he's obsessed — and he's a great panelist.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

The Golf Club

"Hit 'till you're happy."

Not a bad way to start a round of golf. These were the instructions from our host as we stood on the first tee at The Golf Club. The Golf Club (ranked #48 in the world) is probably the highest ranked golf course in the United States that few people have ever heard of. Located in New Albany, Ohio, near Columbus, the course was designed by Pete Dye in 1967. It is a very early Pete Dye design and he used local Jack Nicklaus, then twenty-seven years old, to help him verify some of the potential shot selections as he was designing the course.

The course was the brainchild of Fred Jones, who wanted a course where he didn't have to wait for tee times. F. Scott Fitzgerald was right when he said that the very rich are different than you and me. I have to wait for tee times and accept it as part of the game. It must be nice to have enough money to build your own course when you don't want to wait. The Golf Club doesn't get a lot of play, thus the local custom is to hit until you're happy on the first tee. I have the feeling I'm going to like The Golf Club.

In his book Bury me in a Pot Bunker, Pete Dye says, "When I began sketching ideas for The Golf Club, images of two golf courses built in the 1920s came to mind. Along with the Scottish courses and Pinehurst No. 2, the design features at Seminole and Camargo influenced many of the characteristics prevalent at The Golf Club." I haven't played Camargo yet, but I really didn't see similarities to Pinehurst or Seminole, particularly regarding the greens, which are key aspects of both courses.

GC 3rd green
The third green with railroad ties in the background

A key design element of Pete Dye golf courses is his use of railroad ties. Their use here was while Dye was just getting started as an architect and still experimenting. Dye used railroad ties on the third hole like a teenage girl uses text messaging.

GR #3
Extensive bunkering around the third green

Blacklick Creek meanders the property and comes into play occasionally. Pete Dye again: "The Golf Club has incorrectly been labeled a "links" course. I call it 'Old English,' similar to Sunningdale and Wentworth." The course is on relatively flat land and has wide fairways. I would agree with him that it does have more of a feel of a heathland course. The course is spread out over 360 acres on a plot of land encompassing over 440 acres. At times it feels like a park that just happens to have a golf course running through it.

The par four tenth hole has an interesting design feature; it has a slightly raised green that prevents the golfer from hitting a bump and run shot to the hole. Many holes have raised greens; this one is only about a foot high and creates a grassy transition from the fairway to the green.

GC 10th near green
The approach to 10th hole

There really isn't a bad hole on the course, but the stretch of holes from twelve through sixteen are the most brilliant. The 369 yard par four thirteenth is a world-class hole that doglegs to the left off the tee. Dye made extensive use of sawed off telephone poles in the bunker right of the green. As with many great short par fours, it is a classic risk-reward hole where the further to the left you hit the ball the more you will be rewarded, but it also brings the flowery hazard to the right, seen in the picture below, into play.

GC 13 back

The par four thirteenth looking back from the green

The par five fourteenth is a big hole in all respects. It is 639 yards from the back tees, the fairway is big (100 yards wide) and uneven; the bunker on the right side of the hole is mammoth, and the green is challenging.

Sixteen is a challenging 200 yard par three that plays over a gorge to a relatively small, well-bunkered green. As the number sixteen stroke index hole, it's a doozy. After failing several times to finish the hole, Fred Jones installed a full size hangman's noose on the branch of the magnificent 270-year-old white oak that overhangs the green.

GC Noose on #16

The hangman's noose high up in a tree by the 16th hole

Like Garden City Mens Club, Pine Valley and Augusta National, the Golf Club is an all-male club. I came away with a very favorable impression of The Golf Club, and I think that these lesser known courses by Pete Dye such as this and the Honors Course in Tennessee surpass his better known courses such as Whistling Straits or the TPC Stadium course. Also, I'm getting too old to be beaten up by a golf course. The Golf Club is challenging but is easily the type of course you can play every day and not tire of because it is a great walking course. The locker room at The Golf Club is in a similar style to that at Seminole and Ocean Forest, with lockers ringing the room and seating in the middle.

The bridge over Blacklick Creek on the sixth hole has an old railroad box car as a bridge. My picture shows what the bridge would look like if you had a half dozen beers before teeing off.

Box car bridge on the sixth hole

The club history states that The Golf Club, "...was not founded as a family recreation or amusement center. It was founded as a men's club without the need for starting times and with the excitement and turmoil which too frequently results from the crowds attracted to a multipurpose sports or recreation club." Translation: leave the women and children home.

If I had to give The Golf Club a grade, I would give it an "A". There is really nothing lacking and it is a great place to spend a day playing golf and hanging out in the locker room.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

I ♥ Maidstone

I have previously written about Maidstone as part of my write-up of Golf in the Hamptons but I don't think I did the course justice. In the category of lucky bastard, the two world ranked courses I have played the most are Merion and Maidstone (M & M). My latest round at Maidstone was in a brisk wind, and it inspired me to post more pictures and write more as the course was shining in all its glory.

The neighborhood Maidstone is located in is impressive, with its manicured hedgerows and deca-million dollar homes.

East Hampton HedgerowsA

Hedgerow near Maidstone

In my original writeup of Maidstone, I mentioned how the membership was ultra-wealthy and referenced their private jets. I received this comment recently, "you sound like a complete asshole. the g4s will be irs prop and the members will be locked up." Although the comment was anonymous, it was no doubt from a fellow New Yorker due to its directness, and was clearly written by someone who is pressed for time, since he couldn't take the time to capitalize any words and spell out the word "property."

Well, I may indeed be an asshole, but at least I'm not angry at the world. While there are a lot of 'For Sale' signs in the area and tough economic times are palpable even here, I'm rooting for my friends at Maidstone to recover so I can keep being invited back to play.

It's too bad that Maidstone is always compared to National and Shinnecock because of where it is located. I'm as guilty as anyone of doing this; the fact is, the course stands on its own as a world-class course. Situated between Hook Pond and the Atlantic Ocean, what makes Maidstone so good is the variety of its routing, the continual change in direction, the quirkiness of the layout and more than a half dozen spectacular golf holes. Where else can you play three par fives in a four hole stretch? And five holes in a row without a par four? At Maidstone, where the brilliant stretch of holes from twelve through sixteen make up a full house of golf holes, with a par 3,5,3,5,5.

The course has gone through many changes since its inception in 1894. The course as it exists today was designed by Willie Park, Jr. in 1922A course like Maidstone probably will never be built again, at least in the United States. The environmentalists would not permit building holes in the dunes right next the ocean. And, an architect would have to have guts to route the course the way Willie Park did, with tee boxes and greens so close to each other and a couple of awkward tee boxes. In the brilliant, but bizarre way the course is routed, the second hole is detached from the rest of the course, across a road with an out-of-bounds down both sides. It's not a throw-away hole by any means, in fact, this 537 yard par five is the #1 stroke index hole.

One of my favorite holes in the world is the short par three eighth hole (151 yards) with its blind tee shot and a green set behind the dunes. Par threes don't come much better than this one.

8th from tee
The eighth hole from the tee

The green is a challenging one with a sharp fall off short, right and left, and a big dip in the middle.

8th green back
The eighth hole from behind the green

You hardly have time to recover from the exhilaration of the eighth hole when you walk to the next tee, but the next hole is even better. Standing on the ninth tee box is one of the most beautiful places in the world of golf. In my view, it rivals walking up the 9th fairway at Royal County Down or standing on the 16th tee at Cypress. As you are perched on top of a hill, the par four ninth hole sits among the dunes below you with the Atlantic Ocean in full view.

9th fairway

The ninth hole set within the dunes

Once your tee shot is in the fairway you have a tricky uphill shot to a green that is set at an angle to you. There is a severe drop off to the right of the green and you don't want to miss there.

The par three fourteenth is another one of the brilliant par threes at Maidstone. Only 148 yards from the back tees, it is in an awe inspiring setting among the dunes with the Atlantic Ocean in the background. The holes routed in the dunes (the 8th, 9th, 10th, 13th green and 14th) can compete with any holes in the world in terms of both beauty and the brilliance of their ability to test a golfer. The falloff behind the 10th green is simply frightening.

14th hole from behind

The world class par four 14th hole at Maidstone

No matter the weather conditions or the state of your game, it is hard not to be happy when playing the fourteenth hole.

The 14th from the tee box

Another design feature that makes Maidstone such a good course is that most of the greens are set at an angle to the fairway. The seventeenth should be an easy hole since it is only 328 yards from tee to green. If you bite off the appropriate amount of the pond, it is not that hard to hit the fairway. You should have a wedge to the green, but it is not a particularly easy shot, since the green is set at an angle, and if you hit long or right you're on the road. The approach to the green is like a mini version of the St. Andrews Road Hole. Park had the foresight to design many of the short holes like this: the first, fifth and seventh are designed similarly. He also interspersed both short and long holes and easy and difficult holes in a way that you rarely see.

When Maidstone was built a fair amount of earth was moved. From David Goddard's history of Maidstone, "It was therefore necessary to fill a large area of marshland to provide sufficient fairway for the seventh hole which borders Hook Pond. It is estimated nearly 65,000 loads of sand, gravel and topsoil were hauled by wagon and narrow truck. The entire tee and the entire green for this hole is built into Hook Pond. Sand and gravel moved in building the ninth hole was used to build the fairway of the seventh hole. To build the sixteenth hole nearly four acres of swamp land was filled with sand and gravel. "

17th green
The 17th green at Maidstone

Having played Maidstone now in a variety of conditions, I have really come to appreciate that no two consecutive holes play in the same direction.

When I originally played Maidstone I thought it had a weak start and a weak finish, but I have now changed my opinion. The first, second, seventeenth and eighteenth holes are more strategic than they first look and require you to place the ball in the appropriate place in order to score well. When the wind is up, 6,423 yards is all Maidstone needs to be a stern test of golf.

This is one of a half-dozen clubs I have played that I would love to join, although its not happening. As Robert Macdonald write in the foreword to the club's history, "We are immensely fortunate, beloved by the golfing gods, and there should be on each hole a little prayer booth where each of us can humbly kneel down and count our blessings. We are on one of the best-designed, most beautiful, and most enjoyable golf courses not merely in the United States, but in the entire world."

The grass tennis courts at the Maidstone Club

As fantastic as the golf course is at Maidstone, the overall environment of the club is even better. Jay Gatsby would be right at home if he drove up Old Beach Lane today in a Pierce Arrow Runabout. The scene around the putting green is reminiscent of a whose who in world of power brokers. And everyone is perfectly coiffed and tailored. The locker room is enticing and because the club is set on the ocean there is the beach club extraordinaire. Maidstone pulls off what many other clubs can't: understated elegance and a sense of timelessness. 

When I grow up I want to live in East Hampton and be a member of Maidstone.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Muirfield Village Golf Club

Muirfield Village Golf Club (ranked #37 in the world) is a Jack Nicklaus design located near Columbus, Ohio, not far from where Jack grew up. The course is named after Muirfield in Scotland, where Jack won his first Open Championship in 1966. One key difference between Muirfield and Muirfield Village is that the one in Ohio, like almost all of Jack's courses, supports a large housing development, while the one is Scotland sits on open land between a farm and the water. Most golfers are familiar with Muirfield Village since Jack's Memorial Tournament is played there each year, more often than not when it is raining. Although the course was co-designed by Desmond Muirhead and Pete Dye, the club history states that the final product was 90% Jack and 10% Dye and Muirhead. The course opened in 1974. Muirfield Village is Jack's baby, and he has continued to tweak the course ever since it was built, often making the course more difficult if he felt the shots the pros hit were not hard enough at the Memorial.

Aside from Muirfield Village, Columbus has two other distinctions: It is the home of Ohio State University, and the horror film The Silence of the Lambs was filmed nearby. The film features Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Hannibal Lecter, a brilliant psychiatrist and cannibalistic serial killer who is incarcerated. I can't prove that the movie's producers chose to shoot near Columbus because of Muirfield Village, but they certainly may have. I think the movie is an apt metaphor for the course since I was often in jail and at times the course seemed to eat me alive.

Muirfield Village was designed from the beginning as a course to host professional tournaments and, like many Nicklaus designs, was built to suit Jack's style of play, which requires the golfer to hit the ball long and shape his or her shots. The course was built so that every hole has an amphitheater viewing area. The use of the amphitheater preceded even the TPC Stadium course in Ponte Vedr,e and Jack says, in a manner that would make The Donald proud, "It's a unique golf course. I don't think there's ever been a golf course built in the United States like Muirfield, or anything even close to it." The course has water actively in play on nine holes, normally both alongside the fairway and fronting the greens.

The first thing that struck me when seeing Muirfield Village is that it looks like Augusta. I have seen the course on TV and, just like Augusta, which I have walked several times, the terrain is much more dramatic in person. Muirfield Village is a very hilly course. One of the key design principles of Muirfield Village is that most shots play downhill. Jack's design philosophy about the course: "I believe golf is a much better game played downhill than uphill." You drive from elevated tee boxes or into a valley on the vast majority of holes, and your second shot is uphill only a handful of times. You can see the downhill terrain in this photo below looking back from the fourteenth green.

The downhill fourteenth hole looking back from the green

There are several courses in the world that stand out for having a great collection of par three holes: Cypress Point, Augusta National, Pine Valley, Woodhall Spa. In my view, Muirfield Village stands out for its par fives. Muirfield Village has a greater collection of par fives than any other course in the world I have played. The par five 5th, 11th and 15th are all world-class. Each uses Deer Creek, which snakes through the course, very skillfully. The 527 yard fifth hole begins with a tee shot from an elevated tee box (of course) to a fairway that slopes from right to left. The optimum play is to the right, since all balls naturally feed down to the left. On your second shot you have a choice of fairways to lay up to. The fairway on the left is safer and offers one of the few flat lies on the course.

MV 5
The par five 5th looking toward the green with fairways left and right

The fairway on the right is effectively very small since it continues to slope severely right to left and feeds balls not struck well into the water. This fairway on the right will leave you a shorter shot to the green, but also an uneven lie.

MV 5 green
The fifth hole looking back from above

The fifth green is fronted by water. If you hit the ball long off the tee and fade it, you can try for the green in two, but there is a big penalty being in the water if your shot is not well struck.

MV 5 back

The fifth hole looking back from the green

The hole is both strikingly beautiful and offers fabulous risk-reward options. As with most holes at Muirfield Village, a shot hit over the green leaves you in jail with a downhill sand shot to a green that slopes back to the water.

The conditioning of Muirfield Village is lush. The club history goes to great pains to say it was not modelled after Augusta, but I'm not so sure. The routing, use of water, hilly terrain and greens are similar to Augusta. Also, the par three 12th hole looks a lot like the par three 12th at Augusta, requiring a tee shot to be hit over a pond to a similar green. It is also hard not to think that Deer Creek is the substitute for Augusta's Rae's Creek. The greens generally were in excellent shape and were fast, although they are not the defining characteristic of the course; the hilly terrain and snaking creek is. Many of the greens are set at an angle to the fairway and have water in front of them, requiring precise control on both distance and location.

The 412 yard par four ninth is typical of the par fours at Muirfield Village. It plays from an elevated tee box, downhill (sound familiar). The fairway slopes hard from the right to the left and there are many uneven lies. Your approach shot has to be hit crisply from an uneven lie. If you are over the green, you will be faced with a penal downhill sand shot to a green sloping back to front and toward the water. This is a common design element at Muirfield Village.

Hole 9
The approach to the green at the par four 9th hole

The 567 yard par five eleventh hole is somewhat similar to the par five fifth and is also a world-class hole. You again hit from an elevated tee box (I warned you) down into a valley with a fairway that again slopes right to left.

11th from fwy
The world-class par five 11th from the fairway

Your second shot is over Deer Creek to another fairway, and then finally another shot over water to the green. Once again, long hitters can certainly try to reach the green in two, but the shot has to be precise, or the ball will be repelled back into the stream that fronts the green. The split fairways reminded me a bit of the 17th and 18th holes at Carnoustie, both of which have patches of fairway intermingled with a snaking burn. The creek snakes through the 11th at Muirfield Village so much that the hole has seven bridges that you can use to cross in different places.

Hole Fourteen
Par five 11th hole toward the green

The use of multiple islands of fairways on this hole is also reminiscent of the par five 15th hole at Hirono Golf Club in Japan, which uses a similar design.

11 back
Deer Creek snaking through the 11th hole with its split fairways

I liked the fourteenth hole quite a bit. It is a 363 yard par four where you have to hit a tee shot through trees into a valley with an amphitheater. The green is large, but long and narrow and set at an angle to the fairway. I was worried about my approach shot to the 14th green and was about to yell "bite", but I had sudden visions of Anthony Hopkins simmering his fava beans, so I yelled "sit" instead. The ball landed in the middle of the green.

What Hole #
The 14th hole from the tee

Muirfield Village is a course suited to professional golfers. The co-designer of Loch Lomond, Jay Morrish, probably had me in mind when he said about Jack, "I've always felt Nicklaus really doesn't understand how bad people are. To him, a bad player is a two-handicap. If you're a 15-handicap, you're hopeless. There's no sense of you even being out there." Bingo.

Although his courses in general, and Muirfield Village specifically, are hard, I am not in the Nicklaus-design hating camp. I do find many of his resort courses unappealing and too difficult. However, I am a fan of his Mayacama course in Sonoma, California and of Cabo del Sol in Mexico as well as his co-design with Tom Doak of Sebonack on Long Island. I would make a distinction between Muirfield Village being very difficult, and thus hard for a mid-to-high handicapper to play, and the course not being good. It is a good course, has an interesting routing, is in superb condition and has excellent greens. I just wish I wasn't in the slammer my entire time there. Aside from all the other difficulties, there is a big penalty for being off the fairway, as the rough is tough and the ball nestles down into it.

Par five 15th hole playing through a narrow valley

On the negative side I thought there were a half-dozen average holes on the course including the par three fourth hole and the sixth and eighth holes. The course is very hilly, and it is as difficult a walk as any course I have played; it is the toughest walk I can remember since playing the Addington in England about five years ago. I played my favorite way, walking with a caddie, which saved me from a complete flop sweat. Carrying your bag at Muirfield Village would be a real burden. Jack's design philosophy of almost exclusively downhill golf shots means that the walk from the green to the next tee is sharply uphill all day long. Although a very private club, the course gets a lot of play and there are groups going off all day on most days.

In my view, Muirfield Village deserves to be ranked in the top 100 because it has the best collection of par five holes I have ever seen. It will be Nicklaus's legacy and as such should be treated with respect. He's probably not the first of golf's historical figures I would want to have a beer with, but you have to respect everything he has done for the game. If I may digress, those I would love to have a beer with, in order, are Walter Hagen, Bobby Jones, Tiger Woods, Arnold Palmer and Ernie Els. The ultimate prize, however, would be to have a couple of scotches with Colin Montgomerie because, in keeping with today's theme, he is a psycho. You'd probably have to block out a day and a half to just sit and listen if you just ask him, "Colin, tell me a couple of stories where you argued with people for putting you off your game." I can't wait for next year's Ryder Cup with Monty as captain.

For Columbus, Ohio especially, Muirfield Village is quite formal. There is a guard gate at the entrance like at Pine Valley, and if your name is on the clipboard you are buzzed through the gate. After you drive up to the clubhouse an entourage comes out and greets you by name, and they valet park your car, which is very nice. The people and service at Muirfield Village are first class all the way, and they manage to make you feel at home. They change the spikes in your golf shoes to new spikes to protect their greens, and there is an attention to detail that's 'kinda hokey in a midwestern 'sorta way, but makes a difference. Their wine list is excellent and they have a large selection of Chiantis.

Nicklaus on Muirfield Village, "Certainly it's a tough, tough golf course. But it's a fair test." To keep this comment in context, it is a fair test of golf the same way that swimming from Alcatraz Island to San Francisco is a fair test for a swimmer.

From the back tees, the course plays 7,366 yards and has a slope rating of 149. Be prepared for a stern test of golf if you ever play Muirfield Village and make sure you don't play it by yourself. Go with somebody to lessen your chances of being eaten alive. There's safety in numbers.