Geeked on Golf

Jason Way's Celebration of the People and Things that Make Golf the Greatest Game


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Awakening to Alison – Milwaukee CC & Orchard Lake CC

My golf adventures here in the midwest have recently exposed me to the work of another Golden Age architect – C.H. Alison.  Prior to the past month, I had only played one other course credited to the design partnership of Colt & Alison, and that course had been meaningfully altered.  In playing Milwaukee Country Club and Orchard Lake Country Club, my eyes were opened to just how skilled Mr. Alison was at creating golf courses that are at once demanding and beautiful.

Charles Hugh Alison was a protege and partner of the great Harry Colt.  He worked on projects with Colt in England, and then set off to head the firm’s U.S. office.  According to Adam Lawrence’s profile in Golf Architecture magazine, Alison spent nine years in America, and designed more than 20 courses.  He is known for his routings, and large, deep bunkers that he used to test players’ mettle.

That reputation held up in my experiences at MCC and OLCC.  However, I would also point out that Alison’s bold bunkering is nicely complemented by the subtlety of his greens.  A player who can successfully navigate the hazards to find the green is often rewarded with a straightforward, makable putt.  That kind of balanced restraint is sometimes missing in modern architecture where holes that are wild tee-to-green conclude with wildly undulating greens.  Alison seems to have known a round of golf is more enjoyable if the difficulty ebbs and flows.

Photos with light commentary are below.  My conclusion is this: Based on visits to these outstanding courses, Alison’s other greats such as Bob O’Link, Kirtland, and Country Club of Detroit have risen to the top of my wish list.

(click on images to enlarge)


MILWAUKEE COUNTRY CLUB

Milwaukee Country Club plays over a beautiful piece of ground adjacent to the Milwaukee River.  The holes meander up, down, and around a ridge, as well as skipping across the river.  The four one-shotters play in different directions to take advantage of the wind.  Simply put, Milwaukee CC is a routing masterpiece.

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The course’s signature bunkers have to be seen to be believed.  They are straight out of the Melbourne sandbelt with deep flat bottoms, and massively high faces.  MCC is also a standard bearer for artful grass lines – I have never seen better.  Collaborating with Renaissance Golf, Superintendent Patrick Sisk and his team continue to polish this gem through the detail work that separates the good from the world class.

#1 – Par 4 – 434 yards

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The opener sets the tone for the round at Milwaukee CC, playing dramatically downhill.  It is a slight dogleg right flanked by the signature Alison bunkers.

#2 – Par 4 – 425 yards

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The second is a sharper dogleg right played to an elevated green.  As a part of the renovation work, fairways have been extended and bunkers moved to place a premium on choosing lines of play.

#3 – Par 5 – 493 yards

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The five-pars at Milwaukee CC might not be longest, but they are demanding on the player’s strategic thinking, and ability to execute.  The third is a double dogleg that exemplifies Alison’s strategic design principles.

#4 – Par 3 – 181 yards

The uphill fourth is fronted by a large bunker left and has a green with significant slope.  Unfortunately, not only is the hole tough, but it foiled my attempts to take a decent picture.

#5 – Par 4 – 433 yards

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The fifth plays up over a hill to a blind landing area.  The approach plays downhill to an elevated green set an angle to the fairway.

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#6 – Par 4 – 409

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The uphill sixth requires the player to avoid the left bunker which juts well into the fairway.  The green sits atop the hill making depth perception tricky.

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#7 – Par 5 – 481 yards

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The beautiful downhill seventh leaves plenty of room to play from the tee, but tee shots must challenge the bunker right to have the best angle into a green surrounded by bunkers set at distances that create the potential for awkward recoveries.

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#8 – Par 3 – 174 yards

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My pictures do not do justice to the scale of the bunkering surrounding the green at the par-3 eighth.  Standing on the tee staring down those monsters is a knee-knocking affair.

#9 – Par 4 – 325 yards

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The short par-4 ninth plays back to the clubhouse over a valley to a wild fairway.  It tempts longer hitters to have a go at a heroic drive.

#10 – Par 5 – 484 yards

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Simply one of the most elegantly beautiful holes I have ever played, the tenth has benefited from tree removal that has returned scale, and opened up vistas in the river valley.  Both the tee shot and the approach on this reachable par-5 have to fight against the slope running away from right to left.

#11 – Par 4 – 375 yards

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The first of the river holes, the eleventh gives the player options to lay up short or take on the bunkers at the inside of the dogleg left.  The green features a false front the magnitude of which I have never seen before on a push-up.

#12 – Par 3 – 182 yards

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The twelfth plays over the river to a green beautifully set on the bank with bunkers guarding every side.  The green is canted and subtly contoured to foil birdie attempts.

#13 – Par 4 – 388 yards

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The thirteenth is a dogleg right playing around a large bunker complex to an elevated green surrounded by more gloriously bold bunkering.

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#14 – Par 4 – 411 yards

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The fourteenth is a slight dogleg right, with the tee shot played over the river.  The green has been relocated, and is guarded by a bunker front left.

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#15 – Par 5 – 585 yards

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A large left-center bunker complex guards the fairway on the tee shot of the par-5 fifteenth.  Bunkers short left and front right make the player think strategically about how to approach the elevated green.

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#16 – Par 4 – 452 yards

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The long and straight par-4 sixteenth plays up over a hill and then down to a green guarded front right by a deep bunker.  This hole requires two well struck shots to have any chance at a green in regulation.

#17 – Par 3 – 196 yards

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The seventeenth is an uphill reverse redan with plenty of room to run a left-to-right shot onto the large, front-to-back sloping green.

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#18 – Par 4 – 426 yards

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The home hole is a solid two-shotter with a blind, uphill drive.  Cresting the hill not only provides the player with the thrill of discovering the fate of their tee ball, but it also reveals the phenomenal setting of the final green, with the classic clubhouse behind.  One of my favorite finishes in all of golf.

For more on Milwaukee Country Club:


ORCHARD LAKE COUNTRY CLUB

Milwaukee Country Club blew my mind, but Orchard Lake captured my heart.  Some courses just look right in a way that stirs the spirit, and for me, OLCC is one of those courses.  The course is routed over wonderfully rolling land, and it works its way up and down hills in a manner that provides both moments of serene seclusion and thrilling vista reveals.

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I don’t have the reference point of seeing the course before the renovation work done by Keith Foster, but it is easy to see why the work has been so well received.  The bunker design and treatment is artfully rugged.  The tree management is among the best I have ever seen, and the fescue throughout is gorgeous.  With loving care from Superintendent Aaron McMaster and his team, the course is an immaculate joy to play and a visual treat of contour and color contrast.

#1 – Par 4 – 381 yards

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The opener is a slight dogleg left that plays uphill to a green perched on one of the high points of the north section of the property.  It gives an indication of the movement of the land to come.

#2 – Par 5 – 471 yards

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The second features a challenge that Alison likes to throw at players on the tee – angles that are just enough to make confident line selection and alignment maddeningly difficult.

#3 – Par 3 – 175 yards

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The third has redan qualities, playing over a valley to a large green that runs from high front-right to lower back-left, with large bunkers guarding the left.

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#4 – Par 4 – 352 yards

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The fourth is the first of three consecutive par-4s with more of a parkland feel.  It plays as a slight dogleg left to a canted green guarded on both sides by bunkers.

#5 – Par 4 – 395 yards

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The fifth plays straightaway down to a large green featuring subtle internal contouring that makes holing putts a real challenge for newbies.

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#6 – Par 4 – 380 yards

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The sixth turns back and again doglegs slightly left to an elevated green guarded by a deep bunker front-right. Placement of the tee ball is at a premium to gain the best possible angle into the green.

#7 – Par 3 – 207 yards

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The seventh is a wonderful long par-3 playing up to a green guarded by a very deep bunker left, with views of clubhouse beyond.

#8 – Par 4 – 380 yards

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My favorite hole on the front nine, the eighth is a roller coaster ride of a par-4 playing over heaving fairway to an infinity green benched into a hillside.

#9 – Par 4 – 442 yards

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The ninth is a tough par-4 dogleg right that finishes in a sea of bunkers in the shadow of the clubhouse.

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#10 – Par 4 – 371 yards

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As we finished the outstanding front nine and walked over the road to begin the back, our host commented that he thought the inward nine was better.  At that moment, I couldn’t imagine how that could be possible – 9 holes later, I knew what he meant.

The tenth plays up over a hill and slightly doglegs right.  It features a canted green that is one of the coolest on the entire course, in both its shape and contours.

#11 – Par 4 – 440 yards

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The eleventh is a stout par-4 calling for a drive to a landing area that can’t been seen from the tee.  It doglegs right down to an elevated green guarded by a lone, deep bunker right.

#12 – Par 5 – 520 yards

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The par-5 twelfth plays along the edge of the property and turns left, with a green set serenely in a wooded corner.

#13 – Par 3 – 170 yards

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The thirteenth plays over a deep valley to a green guarded by bunkers left and a steep drop-off right.  The tee shot has a pulse quickening do-or-die feel to it that makes it a thrill to play.

#14 – Par 5 – 498 yards

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The fourteenth demands that the tee shot navigate several large fairway bunkers and then plays straightaway down to a green surrounded by more bunkers, with a lovely fescue-covered hill behind.

#15 – Par 4 – 420 yards

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The final hole in the south section of the property, the fifteenth is a straight two-shotter playing over terrain where level lies are next to impossible to find.

#16 – Par 3 – 145 yards

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The short sixteenth is the final of Orchard Lake’s outstanding one-shotters.  The green is set beautifully in a valley with bunkers on all sides.

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#17 – Par 4 – 367 yards

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The seventeenth is a dramatic par-4 playing uphill between nasty but beautiful fairway bunkers.  The approach plays over a valley to a green set at the highest point on the property.

#18 – Par 4 – 361 yards

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The home hole plays down a severely sloped fairway and then back up to one last thrilling green setting, with the classy white clubhouse behind.  One final reminder of just how beautifully Alison’s routing makes use of the land.

For more on Orchard Lake Country Club:


Many thanks to my gracious hosts at Milwaukee CC and Orchard Lake CC.  They are proud of their special golf courses, and for good reason.  I am grateful to have had these incredible experiences, and to have discovered the work of C.H. Alison.  Yet another architect from the Golden Age whose work is a gift to golf geeks.


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One for the Ages – A Weekend at Prairie Dunes

Gunch: The epitome of everything dirty and nasty.

Gunch is the word that the staff and members use for the native areas that line the holes at Prairie Dunes.  The definition above is fitting.  The gunch is the sole aspect of Prairie Dunes that is not perfectly pleasurable.  The staff is welcoming, the land is beautiful, and the course is a work of Maxwell genius.

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My weekend visit to Prairie Dunes was not just a golf trip.  It was an immersion experience in everything that is great about the game.  A full photo tour is below with my commentary about the course and its architecture.  A few thoughts about the experience:

The first thing that made this trip great was the company.  I have mentioned this in previous posts about my trips to SE Michigan and Boston this year, but it’s worth saying again – golf adventures are infinitely better in the right company.  I was fortunate to spend my weekend at Prairie Dunes with my buddies Chuck, Derek, and Michael.  Not only are they genuinely good guys and fun to be around, but from my perspective, they get it.  They are well traveled, and they have had direct exposure to golf course architects and developers.  They have refined tastes and understand that there are reasons why a course like Prairie Dunes is great, beyond its inclusion on Top 100 lists.

The second thing that made this trip and all-timer was how we played.  From Saturday at 7:30am until Sunday at 2:30pm we played 90 holes (Michael tacked on an extra 18 after sunset on Saturday).  We had fun matches for small stakes, we played from almost every tee on the course, we took turns calling shots, we smiled, we laughed and we talked a lot of golf.  It doesn’t get geekier or more joyous.

And last but not least, the course made this trip one that I will never forget (and one that we are already planning to repeat).  Prairie Dunes is the total package of beauty, variety, strategy, art, and fun.  On to the tour…


PRAIRIE DUNES COURSE TOUR

(click on photos to enlarge)

PrairieDunes-Clock.jpegPrairie Dunes is the joint work of the father and son, Perry and Press Maxwell.  For more on the course history, I suggest the relevant chapter in Anthony Pioppi’s book To The Nines, and Ran Morrissett’s course profile on GolfClubAtlas.com.  Although they never worked on the course together, the holes they created work beautifully together.  There are noticeable style differences, but no weaknesses in either.  The consensus in our group, after much discussion, was that the course is stronger for the variety.

From the tee, the course is as strategic as any I have played.  Not so much because of the placement of hazards, although there are plenty of killer bunkers and gunch.  It is strategic because of the angular play.  On almost every hole, the player is confronted with a decision to make about how best to get in position to approach the green given the wind and pin position.

The greens at Prairie Dunes are in the conversation for the best set on the planet, and for good reason.  Michael referred to them as potato chips, which was perfect.  They are glorious, artful potato chips that provide endless fun in the approaches, the short game, and putting.

To bring it all together, the course is perfectly maintained to accentuate its attributes.  It is a role model for tree management.  Fairways are kept wide, firm and fast, and the first cut of rough is playable.  Green speeds are quick, but reasonable.  It is mint.

One can easily see how Prairie Dunes has influenced Bill Coore and other top modern architects, and players are lucky for that influence.

#1 – Par 4 – 435 yards – Perry Maxwell

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The opener is a solid dogleg left par-4 that gives a first taste of what’s to come throughout the course.  A variety of lines can be taken off the tee, and it is always best to know and account for the pin position when approaching the undulating green.

 

#2 – Par 3 – 161 yards – Perry Maxwell

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The second is the first of the world class set of one-shotters.  It plays uphill to a tiered green benched into a hill.

 

#3 – Par 4 – 315 yards – Press Maxwell

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The third is one of many great short 4-pars at Prairie Dunes.  It plays at an angle left off the tee, tempting the player to bite of more than they perhaps ought to – especially given the challenge in holding the green from awkward distances.

 

#4 – Par 4 – 168 yards – Press Maxwell

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The fourth is another wonderful short par-3.  It almost feels like the son’s homage to the father’s second hole.  Unlike the second though, the 4th will accept running shots on the left side that feed into the center of the green.  Judging distance in the wind is an especially fun test.

 

#5 – Par 4 – 418 yards – Press Maxwell

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The par-4 fifth plays uphill and into a prevailing wind to an elevated green.  It is much more stout than the yardage on the card.

 

#6 – Par 4 – 370 yards – Perry Maxwell

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The course returns to Perry’s holes with the sixth.  A devilish little downhill par-4 with a fantastic green.

 

#7 – Par 5 – 512 yards – Perry Maxwell

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The 7th features a semi-blind tee shot and plays back to a green set near the clubhouse.  The green is surrounded by some of the most beautiful bunkering on the entire course.

 

#8 – Par 4 – 440 yards – Perry Maxwell

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Prairie Dunes’s signature hole is a roller coast ride of a par-4 that plays up to the top of a hill, and then over a valley to an elevated green that you really don’t want to miss.

 

#9 – Par 4 – 426 yards – Perry Maxwell

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This straightaway two-shotter requires a carry over the gunch followed by an exacting approach to a green divided into sections by internal contours.  Being in the wrong section makes a two-putt a challenge.

 

#10 – Par 3 – 185 yards – Perry Maxwell

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Described by Maxwell as his finest par-3, the green is set among the dunes.  It is a sublime little hole that is perfectly capable of exacting punishment.

 

#11 – Par 4 – 453 yards – Press Maxwell

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The eleventh is a big, long par-4, but success or failure on the hole is determined by something little – a mound front and center of the green that can send a misplaced approach any which way.

 

#12 – Par 4 – 390 yards – Press Maxwell

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I have never enjoyed a hole where trees dictated strategy more than the 12th at Prairie Dunes.  Lay back and leave room to play over them, or take them on and leave a short approach?  There is no right decision, but whatever choice is made, the player better execute.

 

#13 – Par 4 – 395 yards – Press Maxwell

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Yet another angled fairway that forces the player to pick a distance and a line and make a confident swing.  Weak approaches are sent back by the false front on this elevated green.

 

#14 – Par 4 – 377 yards – Press Maxwell

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An elevated tee reveals the green, but not the landing area for the drive, which is obscured by a large hump.  To further confound the player, the green is tiered, with the lower tier hidden in back.

 

#15 – Par 3 – 200 yards – Press Maxwell

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The gap between the trees is bigger than it appears on this uphill par-3, but try telling that to your mind as you stand on the tee with a long iron in your hand and the wind blowing.

 

#16 – Par 4 – 408 yards – Press Maxwell

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The sixteenth plays uphill to a green guarded by bunkers front left and right, and a steep-sloped runoff back right.  The final Press hole begins the tough closing stretch.

 

#17 – Par 5 – 500 – Perry Maxwell

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This par-5 plays uphill over a rolling fairway to a green perched on a high point on the property.  It is simple, with just one bunker, but is plenty demanding with a green that propels weak approaches down a steep bank right.  My favorite hole on the course.

 

#18 – Par 4 – 382 yards – Perry Maxwell

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The home hole is the perfect culmination of the Prairie Dunes experience – an angled tee shot, playing downhill to a heaving fairway and then back up to one final genius green fronted my a mound left and surrounded by rugged bunkers.  The player is left wanting for nothing, except for a return trip right back over to the first tee.


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Buddies Back in Boston – Annual Trip Recap

Last year’s eastern buddies trip was such a winner that we decided to return to Boston again this year to play Myopia Hunt Club, Essex County Club, Whitinsville, Kittansett Club and Wannamoisett.  The trip had a wonderful little wrinkle as we were hosted on our first day by a group of members from Myopia and Essex with whom we had casual and fun four-ball matches.  Great guys, great courses, great times.

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Before getting to the courses, a side note:  My golf adventuring continues to include a social aspect for which I am grateful.  These experiences are much more rewarding when shared with other golfers who “get it”.  In fact, one of our hosts commented that he found our group to be enjoyable because we weren’t just a bunch of belt-notchers, but rather guys who loved the game and appreciated its special playing fields.

Since our trip had a twist, I am adding a twist to the recap.  I picked my favorite 18 holes from the 5 courses we played, by number, and hit Jon Cavalier up for photos.  This New England Great 18 is followed with the course photos I took, and some additional commentary.  Disagree with my selections?  Leave a comment here, or hit me up on social media.


NEW ENGLAND GREAT 18

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#1 – Whitinsville GC – Par 5 – 526 yards

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Hello Mr. Ross!  That was the feeling I had stepping onto the tee of the 1st at Whitinsville.  It is a grand par-5 that rolls over hills up to a big green beautifully set on a hilltop.  It is the perfect opener – it doesn’t punish, but it does require good shots to score.

 

#2 – Myopia Hunt Club – Par 5 – 463 yards

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The first at Myopia gives a preview of the quirk.  The second gives a preview of the grandeur and strategy of the rest of the course.  High on the hill of this reachable par 5, picking a route through the mounds, the player knows that thoughtful shot-making is the order of the day.

 

#3 – Wannamoisett CC – Par 3 – 131 yards

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This is the spot where the player realizes just how much Ross got out of the Wannamoisett property.  The short 3rd embodies the beauty and intimacy of the course, along with the truth that big challenge often comes in a small package.

 

#4 – Myopia Hunt Club – Par 4 – 380 yards

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Slopes and angles are the name of the game at the dog-leg 4th.  The safer play right off the tee leaves a much more challenging approach from a fairway sloped high right to low left, into a green sloped even more severely in the same direction.  This hole requires shot-making – two thoughtless straight balls in the middle won’t get the job done.

 

#5 – Kittansett Club – Par 4 – 395 yards

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The fifth heads inland to the windless area that the caddies affectionately call “The Oven”.  This two-shotter features imposing center bunkers that must be challenged to get a full view of and the best angle into the green.

 

#6 – Myopia Hunt Club – Par 4 – 244 yards

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I missed driving the green by less than ten feet on the short 6th, but found my ball on the closely mown upslope with the green running hard away front to back.  After carding a bogey 5, it occurred to me that I might not have mastered the strategy on this hole just yet.

 

#7 – Kittansett Club – Par 5 – 505 yards

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The first and only par-5 on the front nine at Kittansett is a rugged beauty with some of the coolest bunkering on the course.  Navigate that bunkering with an aggressive tee shot and second, and a birdie is there for the taking on the canted green.

 

#8 – Essex County Club – Par 4 – 422 yards

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Full disclosure – I have played this hole twice and it kicked my butt both times, and yet I love it anyway.  It begins with a blind drive to a wild split-level fairway.  It ends with a green that is both canted and contoured.  A truly unique hole.

 

#9 – Myopia Hunt Club – Par 3 – 130 yards

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A fair case can be made that this is best short par-3 on the planet.  It is at once mesmerizing in its artistic appearance, and terrifying in the narrowness of its green surface.

 

#10 – Wannamoisett CC – Par 4 – 403 yards

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This uphill par 4 features a mine field of artful Ross bunkering.  Approaches that crest the hill short tumble down to the beautifully set green.

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#11 – Kittansett Club – Par 3 – 220 yards

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MacDonald & Raynor, Langford & Moreau, and any other architects who have built crazy-bold greens would stand up and applaud the 11th at Kittansett.  Coupled with the length, this one-shotter chucks the concept of “fair” right out the window.

 

#12 – Wannamoisett CC – Par 3 – 195 yards

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The punchbowl green on this long, uphill one-shotter is fronted on the right by an enormous bunker.  It demands a confident swing with a longer club.  Those shots that are up to the challenge feed into birdie putt territory.

 

#13 – Essex County Club – Par 4 – 375 yards

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The natural beauty of this hole is off the charts.  The narrow fairway, flanked by native flowers, grass, and trees opens to a green wonderfully benched into the base of the rocky hill.

 

#14 – Kittansett Club – Par 3 – 175 yards

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Sneaky tough bunkering defends the final one-shotter at Kittansett.  A player who judges the effect of the wind properly and finds the green is rewarded.  For those who do not, a recovery crap-shoot awaits.

 

#15 – Essex County Club – Par 4 – 349 yards

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The 15th at Essex County is set out on the open field shared with the opening stretch of holes.  Wind is a big factor approaching the elevated green fronted by a large bunker.  The green is one of the boldest at Essex with a large swale creating multiple plateaus.

 

#16 – Myopia Hunt Club – Par 3 – 175 yards

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The green on the downhill 16th at Myopia looks almost unhittable from the tee.  To make matters worse, it is surrounded by nasty bunkers that do not yield sand saves easily.  If you manage par here, happily take it and run for the next tee.

 

#17 – Essex County Club – Par 4 – 328 yards

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Higher and higher describes well the penultimate hole at Essex County.  The player is asked to play a tee shot straight up the hill that anchors the back nine, and then follow it with a blind second uphill to one of the smallest greens on the course.  One of the most thrilling climbs in the game.

 

#18 – Essex County Club – Par 4 – 414 yards

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The climb on the 17th at Essex County is followed by the winding descent of the home hole.  The routing of the fairway between fescue covered hills is visually confounding on the tee shot.  Finding the fairway affords the player a reasonable approach to a subtly contoured green that will yield birdies.

 


MYOPIA HUNT CLUB

No other course is quite like Myopia.  It has a look and feel of pre-dating the Golden Era architecture, much like The Country Club.  It has a rugged, lay-of-the-land natural beauty about it.  It has plenty of quirk, of all the right kinds – blind shots, mounds, hummocks, and a variety of bunkering.

None of the above is meant to imply that Myopia is not sophisticated.  In its own unique way, it is one of the most strategic, artistic, and challenging courses that I have ever played.  It takes deep thought, confident decision-making, and solid execution to score.  I suspect that a player could spend several lifetimes joyfully trying to unlock all of its secrets.

In a word, Myopia is evocative, and I loved every minute of walking its fairways and trying to meet its challenges.

 


ESSEX COUNTY CLUB

There have been times in the past year that I have wondered if I have oversold myself on the greatness of Essex County.  This return visit dispelled any doubts – Essex County is brilliant, and the back nine is a masterpiece.

With guidance from Bruce Hepner, Superintendent Eric Richardson continues his pursuit of perfection, including removal of thousands more trees on the rocky hill that is the centerpiece of the property.

It became clear on my second time around Essex that its variety is part of its charm for me.  The course wanders through distinct zones – holes 1-3, 4-6, 7-9, 10-13, 14-16, 17-18 – each with their own feel and natural beauty.  Add to that variety the obvious love that Donald Ross poured into tinkering with the greens and surrounds, and you have one special golf course.

 


WHITINSVILLE GOLF CLUB

Whitinsville is thoroughly pleasurable to play.  It is the kind of course that doesn’t need to wow, because it produces a sustained sense of happiness, hole after hole.  If I lived within an hour drive of Whitinsville, I would have submitted a membership application immediately after walking off the 9th green.

Working off of a Master Plan created by Gil Hanse, with assistance from Forse Design, Superintendent Michael Hughes keeps the course in perfect condition.  Nothing is overdone, and yet everything is just so.  It is a combination that allows the subtle elegance of Ross’s work to shine through.

A specific note about the trees at Whitinsville – I can’t think of a course that is a better example of ideal tree management.  It is right up there with Crystal Downs in that regard for me.  There are gorgeous specimen trees throughout the property in stands and singles, every one of which is nicely highlighted.  The property feels both intimately wooded and wide open at the same time.  Whitinsville strikes the perfect balance and should be studied by course stewards everywhere.

 


KITTANSETT CLUB

If there is a better flat-site golf course than Kittansett, I would like to see it.

The course plays through two distinct zones – a largely treeless coastal zone open to the stiff wind, and an inland zone among the trees which plays much calmer, but is no less challenging.  Gil Hanse’s restoration and Superintendent John Kelly’s care have uncovered the unique character of this New England gem.

Although Kittansett has a wild and rugged beauty, it makes no attempt to impress with visual eye-candy.  Instead, it uses ground features and bunkers to make the player think from tee-to-green on every single hole.  Impatience, indecision, and lapses of concentration are punished, but the player who plots a course and executes can score and have great fun doing so.

 


MARION GOLF CLUB

We made a quick stop after Kittansett at Little Marion (as the locals call it), which I had learned about in Anthony Pioppi’s wonderful book, To the Nines.  This early work of George Thomas was everything I had hoped it would be.  Quirky, raw, and just the kind of community course where I would love to go whack it around with my kids.

 


WANNAMOISETT CLUB

When I think of a classic golf course, a place that ought to host national championships, I think of a course like Wannamoisett.  At Par 69, tuned up to tournament conditions, I imagine that it can beat you senseless with a steady line-up of tough par-4s, and highly varied par-3s.

Wannamoisett is a prototypical Donald Ross golf course, but with some wonderful twists.  Ross’s creativity in the bunkering and ground features throughout is beyond anything that I have seen elsewhere.  He made the absolute most of this beautiful, but small, piece of property outside of Providence.  The course winds in and out of every nook and cranny, and it is a joy to explore.

With Superintendent Mark Daniels’s steady hand at the helm, this wonderful Ross gem gets the reverent care that it deserves.

 


In conclusion, it is safe to say that it doesn’t get any better than this.  I hope to get back to the area during the fall so that I can experience the natural beauty of these courses during another season.  Until that day, the fond memories will be close at hand.


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Myopia Hunt Club Tour by Jon Cavalier

MYOPIA HUNT CLUB – A COURSE TOUR & APPRECIATION

South Hamilton, MA – Herbert Leeds

I had the pleasure of playing an early morning round at the one-of-a-kind Myopia Hunt Club outside Boston.  To put it mildly, it was well worth the drive up from Philly (smooth sailing when you leave at 1am).

Suffice it to say that I loved Myopia.  There is a vibe emanating from certain of these old clubs that I find quite appealing, and Myopia, like Garden City, has it in spades.  The building that houses the bar and dining areas was built in 1772.  The course is virtually unchanged from 19th century origins, save for a bit of added length.  It’s an incredible place.  I hope that you get a sense of that in these photos.  Enjoy.

The Entrance

You know when you arrive at Myopia that you are in for a special day.  As you make your way down the long entrance drive, you pass polo fields and horse barns and other areas that reveal that, unlike many other clubs of its ilk, Myopia still maintains strong ties to its equestrian roots.  And then there’s that outstanding logo.

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Like Yeamans Hall, Myopia’s entrance road lets you know right away what kind of experience you’re in for.  Horse barns are to your left as you drive in.  No parking, please.

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Horses are not the only creatures roaming the grounds at Myopia.

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That said, there are plenty of horses.  The 18th fairway is in the background, bordering the grounds.

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The Scorecard

In fitting with the overall theme of the club, even the scorecard looks old.

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The Clubhouse

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This view from behind the 18th green shows the wraparound clubhouse/locker room building, along with the putting green.

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No bartender – serve yourself.

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Fireplace signage

I can honestly say this is the first advertisement for a sled dog race I’ve seen at a golf course.

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Myopia’s weathervane

Locker Room

For me, Myopia’s locker room facilities rank right up there with Garden City, Merion and National Golf Links.  Myopia’s facilities have a more modern feel, but they’re still very unique.

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MYOPIA HUNT CLUB

Hole 1 – “First” – 276 yards – Par 4

Myopia opens softly, with a short, uphill par-4 with a blind but wide fairway.  The small green is easily reachable for some, but it can be treacherous, with its severe right to left slope.

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The angle that most wedge approach shots will see into the first green reveals the necessity of avoiding the miss right.

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The view from the first green – wow.

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Hole 2 – “Lookout” – 488 yards – Par 5

A very unique half par hole, the elevated tee allows a full view of the all the interesting obstacles presented.  The first in a three hole stretch of great golf.

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The second shot is blind to the green, as is the cross-bunker between the two mounds.  The flag in the background is on the 7th green.  The 2nd green is sunken below.

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The green and bunker are revealed.  This hole reminded me a bit of Emmet’s 4th at St. George’s on Long Island.

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The 2nd from behind shows the recessed nature of the green.

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Hole 3 – “Brae” – 252 yards – Par 3

A monster par-3 reminiscent of the 8th at Oakmont, only short doesn’t work well here.  In truth, the third of three half-par holes to open the round.  Anything long is dead.

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A small green for such a long par-3.

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Hole 4 – “Miles River” – 385 yards – Par 4

A fantastic and beautiful par-4, and one of the most widely recognized holes at Myopia.

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Beautiful bunkering.  The photo does not reveal just how much the green slopes from back right to front left.  I was told that this green has less pinnable area than even the tiny green on #9.

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From behind the green.

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Hole 5 – “Lone Tree” – 417 yards – Par 4

The fifth is a tough par-4 divided by a stream.

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The approach, with the morning dew still glistening.

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The reverse view reveals hints at the subtle demands of the fifth.

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Hole 6 – “Brook” – 255 yards – Par 4

Another brilliant short par-4.  By this point, the player knows he’s playing a course meant for match play.  This hole is drivable, with the caveat that the green slopes from front to back.

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The look back, with the rock wall as yet another reminder of Myopia’s timeless New England style.

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Hole 7 – “Myopia” – 401 yards – Par 4

The course’s namesake provides a capsule view of what you’ll find at quirky Myopia.  Good luck finding a level lie in this fairway.

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The approach view on the 7th from the top of the hill.

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The view from the green back shows the elevation change and side-slope.

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This panoramic view of the 7th hole, taken from the 4th fairway, gives a good idea of the challenge of the slope in the approach, and shows the many background elements that add to the experience at Myopia.

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Hole 8 – “Prairie” – 473 yards – Par 5

The hole begins with a drive over a small rise to a blind landing area.

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The second shot is obscured by an Alps-like rise in the fairway that hides the green.  The very top of the flag is visible here.

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Like the 4th, the bunkerless 8th green is built with severe slope from high right to low left.  Anything to the right of this pin can easily be putted all the way off the green.

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Hole 9 – “Pond” – 136 yards – Par 3

One of the best short par-3s in golf.

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The green is a mere 9 paces wide at the middle, and the creative bunkering results in some interesting recovery shots on misses.

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Hole 10 – “Alps” – 404 yards – Par 4

The “alps” here are carried off the tee.  The blind tee shot makes for an uncomfortable drive, since anything missed right …

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… ends up in a really bad spot.  Note that the landing area is wider that it would seem from the tee, but the price for missing is quite high.

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The 10th also has some great contour and bunkering around the green.  One of my favorite holes on the course.

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Reverse view, showing the wonderful green complex.

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Hole 11 – “Road” – 349 yards – Par 4

An uphill par-4 with trouble down both sides.  The tee is to the left of this photo, which shows the gorgeous red fescue that abounds at Myopia.  Any left to right tee shot here is in danger of running off the canted fairway.

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This green view reveals another great use of a cross bunker.  There’s room between the bunker and the green to land a ground approach, but you won’t get away with a skulled runner here.  Along with 4 and 8, the 11th is one of the most sloped greens on the course.

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Hole 12 – “Valley” – 451 yards – Par 4

A picturesque tee shot back down into the valley, the 12th runs parallel to the 8th and 7th holes.  The red fescue frames the hole beautifully.  Another half-par hole.

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The view of the green on twelve shows the danger of missing right.

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This view back toward the 12th tee reveals the rugged nature of the terrain at Myopia.

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Hole 13 – “Hill” – 358 yards – Par 4

Playing back through the valley of the 2nd hole, the 13th requires proper placement of the tee shot to have a reasonably playable angle into the elevated green.

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The approach on 13.  Straight up the ridgeline.

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Anything short of the green will roll back off the front of the green, ending up as far as 30 feet from the putting surface.  You really don’t want to be long here either.  The bottom line – hit the green, or else.

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Hole 14 – “Ridge” – 393 yards – Par 4

The landing area on this par-4 is flanked by more of Myopia’s signature ground features.

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The green is defended by bunkers from which recovery is no easy task.

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Hole 15 – “Long” – 529 yards – Par 5

The slight rise in the fairway hides the fairway bunkers up the right side.

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Likewise, the bunkers fronting the green are hidden from view on the second shot.

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Myopia’s seeming simplicity masks nuance that is discovered over many plays.

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Hole 16 – “Paddock” – 192 yards – Par 3

A gorgeous par-3 with the clubhouse as a backdrop.  Once again, many of the greenside bunkers are hidden from view.  The 18th green is seen behind.

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The view from behind the 16th green, with the first fairway in the background.

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This view from a different angle behind the 16th green better shows the great bunkering on this hole.  The pro shop is just out of view to the right.

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Hole 17 – “West” – 394 yards – Par 4

The green is not in view from the tee, nor is the bunkering on the right of the fairway.

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The 17th green, tucked in among the trees and bunkers.  Not much room for error.

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Hole 18 – “Home” – 400 yards – Par 4

Great courses have great closers, and Myopia is no exception.  The 18th here reminded me a little of the finishing hole at Oakmont.  A ridge runs the entire length of the right side of the hole.  Horses run the left.

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Double bunkering fronts the green on the right.

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A final set of signature Myopia bunkers guards the greenside and runs from front left to back right.

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The view back down the 18th – beautiful.

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Copyright 2016 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf


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Journey Along the Shores – Part 14a (The Power of Volunteers)

The contributions that our volunteers make to Canal Shores continues to warm my heart and blow my mind.

In the fall of last year, among various off-season projects, we decided to rework bunkers and clean up around our 12th green.  That little project has become something much cooler, and it is all because of our volunteers.

NSCDSDudes.JPGI will get back to the bunker and green surrounds work.  First, I want to highlight the contributions of four students from North Shore Country Day School.  NSCDS has a senior service requirement.  CJ, Sam, Dillon, and AJ came to us and asked if they could do their service hours at Canal Shores.  It just so happened that we were hoping to add a native plant and habitat area behind the 12th green.  The adjacent sidewalk is heavily trafficked, and we thought the community would appreciate the natural beauty.  I asked The Boys (as they have come to be known) if they wanted to see our idea through – planning to fundraising to implementation – and they agreed.

It has been fun to see them work through the steps of the project.  Thus far, they have:

  • Met with me to learn about the changes to the area from a golf design perspective.
  • Met with Steve Neumann from Logic Lawn Care to work on a design, plant list, and budget for the work.
  • Done outreach to landscaping companies to try and get free top soil to recondition the area.
  • Researched fundraising platforms and provided me with their findings.
  • Met with our Superintendent Tom Tully to work through the details of handling the funds.

Making this progress hasn’t been easy because their various points of contact are busy people.  They are persistently taking action and making it happen though, and that is what I love about our volunteers.

This is the rough design The Boys worked on with Steve and his designer Ana.

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The design includes these native shrubs, flowers, and grasses:

 

The Boys also produced this video about the project.

 

And they have launched a fundraising campaign on IndieGogo.  Click here to check out their page.

I donated to their campaign and I hope you join me.  Not just because their work is helping us to progress in the transformation of Canal Shores, but also because theirs is exactly the kind of volunteerism that we should support.  They are role models for how to make a difference, and I believe that they deserve our recognition and donations.

In my next post, I’ll share more about the bunker and green surrounds work that the golf geeks crew did, but for now, support The Boys.

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More Journey Along the Shores posts:

 

 

Copyright 2016 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf


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As Good As It Gets – Lost Dunes & The Dunes Club

Last season, I screwed up royally.  I have access to Lost Dunes, the Tom Doak gem in SW Michigan, and I did not go.  Pathetic, I know.

Determined not to make the same mistake twice, I wrangled two Superintendent homies, Scott Vincent (Onwentsia) and Brian Palmer (Shoreacres) for a spring outing.  And since we were in the mood for adventure, we also lined up The Dunes Club (thank you Michael).  If one outstanding course is good, two in a day must be great.

We set off before sunrise, and returned well after sunset.  Everything in between was pure golfy joy.

Scott and I both love to take photos (and Brian calls us a couple of Wangs).  I take a lot of photos in the hope of getting a few good ones.  Scott is a legitimate stud photographer (follow him on Instagram @srvpix), and he has graciously given me some of his photos to add to mine and share.  Before the course photos and commentary, a thought or two about the trip.

As you know from my previous posts, Desert Days and A 1,537 Mile Drive, I do not hesitate to hit the road solo on golf adventure.  I enjoy the solitude of the open road and an empty golf course.  As I grow older in the game, I find it much more satisfying to share these experiences with fellow geeks.  It is invigorating to riff on architecture, travel, music, family, business, and I everything else I find interesting.  It is a blast to celebrate the good shots and rib each other for the clunkers.  It fills me with gratitude to spend time in the company of kindred spirits.

Scott and Brian are genuinely good dudes and they are certainly kindred geek spirits.  Their company was a gift, and made what would have been a good day into one that is as good as it gets.

Now, Lost Dunes and The Dunes Club.


LOST DUNES

Tom Doak rightly gets accolades for Pacific Dunes and his subsequent courses.  Lost Dunes may be under the radar for the masses, but folks who have played it repeatedly appreciate it at multiple levels.  I count myself among those who consider it among my favorites in modern architecture.  It is creative, beautiful, strategic and challenging.  From the first tee until the 18th green, there is no point at which a player can afford to take a mental holiday.

The club straddles I-94, and always tugs at my heart strings when I drive back and forth from Northern Michigan.  Every time my itinerary involves stopping for a play, my love of Lost Dunes is renewed.

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(click on images to enlarge)

#1 – Par 4

Lost Dunes opens with a short 4 playing over the entry road from the tee.  After hitting the green, the player gets a taste of what’s to come – a green with contours that produces 3-putts like the spring Canadian geese produce, well, you know…

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#2 – Par 4

This hole is my favorite on the outward nine, and illustrates the principles of strategic golf at its best.  Taking on the right side bunker from the tee yields the best position from which to go for a left pin.  The safer route down the left leaves the player with the option of playing short, on, or long of the green in two.

Every position presents its own challenges in getting down in two.  Par is a good score on this hole, which requires both thought and execution.

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#3 – Par 3

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#4 – Par 5

The first 5-par offers the player a multitude of routes to take on the drive, second, and approach.  There is no “right” way to play the hole, but it does require confidence to score.

#5 – Par 3

The second par-3 at Lost Dunes is just plain hard.  The wind whips across this exposed section of the property making hitting the green from 225-245 a feat.

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The left side mound can be used by the creative shot-maker, and provides ground-game excitement as a reward.

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#6 – Par 4

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#7 – Par 4

#8 – Par 5

Lost Dunes offers numerous thrills, not the least of which is the tee shot to the angled fairway on the par-5 8th.

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The corridor narrows on this 600+ yard brute as the green is approached.

#9 – Par 3

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#10 – Par 5

The back nine begins with the reachable par-5 tenth, which gives the player a first encounter with the large lake around which many of the best holes on the course play.

#11 – Par 4

The uphill 11th is my favorite hole on the course, and begins one of my favorite stretches of holes (#11 – #15) in all of golf.

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The green is brilliantly seated in a natural hollow in the dunes and is guarded by an enormous bunker short right.

#12 – Par 4

With a new tee higher up on the large dune that separates Lost Dunes from the highway, the tee shot on the par-4 12th is even more exciting.  Imagine a well struck shot rising against a blue sky and then gently falling to the fairway below.

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(photo by Scott Vincent)

This 390-yard hole packs plenty of challenge from tee to green.

#13 – Par 3

The setting and design of this par-3 bring to mind the 3rd at Crystal Downs, a source of inspiration for Tom Doak, and many other architects.

#14 – Par 4

The 14th features another one of Lost Dunes’s gorgeous, thrilling tee shots.

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This bunkerless hole lays upon the land and winds around the lake so beautifully, additional hazards are simply not necessary.

#15 – Par 5

Once again, Lost Dunes gives the player the option to decide how much risk they want to bite off.

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(photo by Scott Vincent)

The closer to the target line of the distant dune one plays, the greater the chance of getting home in two.

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(photo by Scott Vincent)

This roller coaster par-5 plays down and then back up hill to a well-defended green.

#16 – Par 3

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#17 – Par 4

Walking off the 16th green, the player re-enters the more wooded area of the property for the final stretch.

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Approach shots must be hit precisely into this green if they are to avoid the nasty bunker left.

#18 – Par 4

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The walk up the fairway of the par-4 18th toward the clubhouse elicits mixed feelings – joy for the wonderful golf experience, relief at surviving the challenge, sadness that it must come to an end.   Like all great architecture, Lost Dunes is evocative, and it leaves you wanting more.


THE DUNES CLUB

As Lost Dunes tests all facets of a player’s game, the Dunes Club is also a test.  It tests one’s ability to throw off the conventions of modern, American golf and reconnect with the pure joy that originally hooked each of us.  This private playground of the Keiser family and their fellow members could not be more graciously inviting, laid back, and fun.

It has been my good fortune to visit the Dunes Club for three straight years, and every time I return, it blows my mind.  Under the stewardship of the Keisers and consultation by Jim Urbina, the course continues to evolve for the better.  Proactive tree management and brush clearing have allowed more air flow and sunlight, which Superintendent Scott Goniwiecha has parlayed into ideal playing conditions for firm, fast, and fun golf.  Cleared areas are now being converted into artful sandy wastes featuring fescue and native vegetation.

It would be reasonable to say that the Dunes Club could not get any better, but the trend of the last several years indicates otherwise.

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There are no tee markers at the Dunes Cub, and each hole has multiple teeing areas, often at drastically different angles.  Holes can be shortened or lengthened as players see fit.  Throw in contours, ground features, and hazards that encourage creative shot-making, and the only limitations to variety that exist at the Dunes Club are those in the players’ minds.

#1 – Par 4

The par-4 first illustrates the benefits of tree and brush clearing.  Width of the playing corridor off the tee has been restored, opening up different lines of play.  The hole is no less stout of an opener though.

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The first also gives an indication of the creativity of the bunkering and sandy waste areas throughout the course.  They are as beautiful as they are challenging.

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#2 – Par 3

With two teeing areas at significantly different angles to the green, the second embodies variety.

#3 – Par 5

The third is separated into three islands, first by grassy mounding and then by a low waste area.  Only the longest hitters can reach in two – more often, it requires three precisely placed shots.  From the forward tees, it can also be played as a solid two-shotter with a fun tee shot to the center fairway section.

The area short of the green features a style of fescue clumping that is at once rugged and artistic.

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#4 – Par 4

The fourth has always been my favorite hole on the course.  The dogleg left par-4 plays to a fairway sloped downward from left to right.  It requires a tee shot with a draw, or an extremely confident line down the left to get in the best position for the approach.

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(photo by Scott Vincent)

The second shot is best played with a fade to access all pins, or the player can use the contours short and left to feed a running shot onto the green.

#5 – Par 4

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The only water hole on the course, the fifth features a beautifully sited green surrounded by wonderful contours.

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#6 – Par 3

The short 6th takes variety to another level with teeing areas at numerous lengths and angles.

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(Photo by Scott Vincent)

Recent rework to the green has also made it more playable.  Good shots are well received, and the green surrounds punish poor shots.

#7 – Par 4

The seventh is in the midst of one of the most dramatic transformations.  It is still a work in progress and I cannot wait to see how it turns out.

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This bunker complex that borders the left side of the fairway is one of the coolest that I have ever seen.

#8 – Par 5

The wild par-5 eight has elicited a love-hate relationship among players.  Ongoing tree work has returned options to the hole and made it more a test of strategy than just accuracy.

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(Photo by Scott Vincent)

The tee shot can be laid up short of the waste area.  Or for the bold, a route left into the 5th fairway shortens the hole and makes reaching in two a possibility.

Big and bold – there is nothing subtle about the 8th green complex.  This hole does not yield birdies easily.

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(Photo by Scott Vincent)

#9 – Par 4

This tough but fun, uphill par-4 can play anywhere from 425+ yards to 275.  Factor in wind and change of elevation and this relatively simple hole is packed with variety.

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An argument could be made that this bunker guarding the center of the green has become a bit out of style with the rest of the course as it has evolved, but I like it.  It is a throwback to the course’s roots, and taking it on adds one last thrilling exclamation point to each loop around the Dunes.

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We played 22 total holes on this particular day, which meant that we got three cracks at the ninth.  We played it from the back tees the first time, and then the forward tees on the second and third.  Old Man Way, as I am affectionately known, delivered in fine fashion by driving the green twice in a row.  As we high-fived and laughed at the mild absurdity of it, I felt like a kid again.

That, to me, is what golf does at its best.  For short periods, it makes the world melt away and leaves only the joyful present moment.  Great golf courses naturally produce those moments, and at that level, there is no greater course of which I am aware than the Dunes Club.

 

 

Copyright 2016 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf

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