Saturday, January 01, 2011

2010 Year in Review

Dodgy at WF

This year's golf photo of the year is the night picture of Dodgy leaving Winged Foot. It sums up in one picture the amazing feat of 2010. I was very pleased to be part of the "Kikimania" that swept the world in 2010. It felt a bit like meeting a young McCartney and Lennon when I first met Michael and Jamie at Kingston Heath in Australia. Their characterization of me and my traveling partners as high-flyers took me by surprise: "No grimaces; no swear words - just smiles." Is our reputation as Americans that bad? I know Tiger creates a bad image for us, but come on guys, we're not all foul-mouthed club throwers over here.

Amazingly, Michael and Jamie did it: played golf every day for a year on the world's best courses. How can you manage to play Royal Melbourne, Kingsbarns, Cypress Point, Pine Valley, Winged Foot, Riviera, Merion, Garden City and amazingly both National and Shinnecock on the same day with the lobster lunch? This is in addition to hundreds of other golf courses, while on a low budget, paying for only a handful of greens fees. Like Robert McCoy's unreal feat of playing the top 100 courses in 100 consecutive days, this one is unlikely to ever be repeated. Congratulations guys, I look forward to seeing you in Wellington soon. As the pro at a leading course told me after hosting them, "These two will be successful at whatever they decide to do in life." I couldn't agree more.

I am a died-in-the-wool American and have long believed we live in the greatest country in the world. After visting Australia, I'm having second thoughts. Wow, do these Aussies have a great lifestyle, a beautiful country and a great attitude. Aside from playing breathtaking and world-class golf courses, I made several new friends Down Under.

My Road-to-Damascus conversion occured in Tasmania when it struck me that this journey is not about golf, but about the experience, the people I have met, spending time with my mates and visting new and unique places.

bb walk 4-5
The second best walk in golf, from the fourth green to the fifth tee at Barnbougle

The lineup of Kingston Heath, Royal Melbourne, Royal Adelaide, New South Wales and Barnbougle was made even more special with the tour I got of Lost Farm by the affable owner Richard Sattler. The trip to Australia was worth the long journey.

I use my year-in-review post to highlight reader comments from the past year, and it is always a popular feature. I received a disputatious comment on my Winged Foot post: "You suck at describing golf courses. Joe public like all of us reading, don't give a flock about the grandeur of the experience, we want the nitty gritty of the golf course." But I didn't take the bait. The truth is nothing would bore my readers more. I will stick to my current winning formula.

Like gum stuck to the bottom of my shoe, these Fishers Island comments won't go away. "It is good that your picture is not posted on your blog. The Trooper would turn you right around at the ferryboat. Better stay on the mainland." Another, was more polite, calling me sir and stating, "you must be out of your mind." I'm used to being treated like a pinata, so all the beating doesn't phase me anymore.

A Fishers Island resident tells me I'm "UNQUALIFIED" to give an opinion on the course because I didn't grow up there like he did! Typical. He did not agree with my assessment: "WOW! There it is again, WOW! Speechless to say the least." I won't repeat the rest of what he said, but please, no profanities in the future, this is a clean blog, suitable for families.

I would point out that those attackers fail to recognize that my description of Fishers Island is like the coverage provided by Fox News: fair and balanced. I state both good and bad, which apparently you shouldn't do. I never got the memo that said everything about Fishers Island was great. Like the curate said of his bad egg: parts of it are excellent. I also hadn't realized, as one knowledgable resident commented, that the CIA was indeed watching when I played (its head at the time was a member) and that the course isn't the best maintained: "I think that if Michelangelo had only completed half the Sistine Chapel and it was ill-maintained, it would still be considered a masterpiece."

18th fwy back
Wade Hampton's finishing hole

There's a reason why Long Island finished first in my poll of the world's greatest golfing regions. There is just so much to choose from. A big Coore/Crenshaw fan left this comment: "Friars is better than Maidstone. Mickelson was quoted as saying, "Friar's Head is my favorite course in America behind Augusta." But I am a NGLA fan, Friars is 3rd best on Long Island."

And this from an adoring Maidstone fan: "I'm quite sure that GOD lives and plays at Maidstone, and he can go anywhere! I LOVE that place."

Jim said of Friar's Head, "If Cypress and Pine Valley had a baby, they’d name it Friars Head."

Monty finished last in my poll of historical golf figures most people would like to have a drink with. Only 12 other people voted with me by picking Monty. No surprise that Bobby Jones finished first.

Monty at this year's Open at St. Andrews,
a picture that is truly worth a thousand words.

I was sorry to learn from one of my readers that Tom Simonson, the iconic gentleman at Sand Hills, who grilled burgers and dogs at Ben's Porch, has passed away.

This anonymous commenter is clearly not impressed with my journey: "You are the worst kind of golfer. I despise people who "network" in order to get themselves invited to play an exclusive club so they can notch their bedposts. You're an idiot." The commenter proves the point that jealousy and anger clearly make a bad combination. Plus, the notch in the bedpost reference refers to seducing women. I'm clearly not doing that; a better metaphor would have been notching my belt.

Thank you "GRCR" for your eloquent and poetic comment on Myopia Hunt Club: "It is a gorgeous course; a design of tempest and calm, Jekyll and Hyde, without remorse for the golfers that play it." Amen.

The comment of the year is from Judge Schmales on my Bel-Air post, responding to another comment from a caddy, "Toews-I think this is the best blog I've seen and appreciate the author's view. He's not trying to be a neutral voice that won't offend anyone. I like the style of writing and find his "character" similar to Tom Wolfe. Clearly, anyone who has the time, money, game and connections to play all these courses is not your average hacker. One other point- as someone who caddied for 11 years, most caddies suck. Just find the ball, give me the yardage and get out of the way. Listening to former caddies complain is like bartenders who feel they have to tip every bartender 50%. I would love to see a poll of best/worst caddies by club". I owe you a drink!

Additional new notches this year included Colonial, Wade Hampton and Shoreacres, all worthy entries in the top 100. Here is a frightening fact: I only have one more private course left to play. Of my five remaining courses, four are public. You can guess the one remaining private course.

I did several fabulous repeats this year, playing once again at Bethpage Black, Merion, Sunningdale, Carnoustie, Prestwick and Morfontaine (YES!). In each instance I have updated my write-ups and included more pictures. Capping off a brilliant year, I also played Plainfield Country Club, St. Louis Country Club and in the Barclay's pro-am at Ridgewood Country Club.

3rd jockie's burn

Jockie's Burn, the 3rd at Carnoustie

17 greenside
Prestwick's tantalizing 17th hole "Alps"

I'm now at 95 courses complete and I can start to hear the sound of the fat lady singing in the distance. It's not a pleasant sound. I thought I would be excited as I got nearer to completing my goal, but I'm more melancholic than anything. I want to slow it all down and draw it out. I'm going to miss the sense of discovery and anticipation and journey that has been so much a part of this quest.

In addition to traveling to New Zealand and Canada for golf I have several wishes for the new year including the hope that CNN Airport will be permanently disabled so that we weary travelers can wait at the gate in peace. And, that just one time, one of those menacing people with wheeled luggage who runs over my feet as they hurry to get into Chili's apologizes for doing so.

Have a happy and healthy New Year!

Best wishes for 2011 from an Irish Blessing from St. Patrick:

May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
May the rains fall soft upon your fields.