What a year.
I took the madness to another level this year, playing 49 different golf courses in 11 different states. 34 of those golf courses were first time plays. As an indication of the quality of the 2015 golf adventure, I would make a point and an effort to go back to 33 of the courses.
Effort was a key word in this year’s golf tour, and by the end of the season, I was feeling the effect of the miles, the hours, and the lost sleep. Reflecting on the experience prompted starting a thread on GolfClubAtlas.com re: running around vs. staying home. I must admit, with a little more time off the road, I can feel the itch already. Dreams and plans are percolating for 2016, but first a few highlights from this season.
Four courses entered my list of Top 10 favorites, which is getting increasingly tough to crack.
Essex County Club
Courses that meet the “one course for the rest of my life” criteria are always my favorites, and Essex now leads that pack for me. The property on which the course sits is singular, and Donald Ross’s routing around it is magnificent. Ross lived on the course for years, and it clearly received his loving attention. Cool features and details abound – it is brilliant in its subtlety. Consulting work by Tom Doak and the care of Superintendent Eric Richardson have uncovered the beauty and challenge of Essex County. It is as close to perfect as any course I have ever played.
The Links at Lawsonia
The drive on the first hole at Lawsonia is blind. As I crested the first hill to see the massive fairway bunkers, and even bigger green built into the hillside, my mind exploded. That explosion continued hole after hole all morning. The boldness and scale of the architecture that Langford & Moreau achieved in central Wisconsin is like nothing I have ever seen. They just don’t build ’em like that anymore.
Boston Golf Club
On a buddies trip that included The Country Club, Essex County, and Old Sandwich, my expectations for Boston Golf Club were not that high – relatively speaking. BGC simply blew me away. It was like a work of art that Gil Hanse painted onto the rolling terrain with one stunning view after another. The course was also packed full with variety and shots that were alternately fun and tough to play.
Toward the end of the season, I knocked out quite a few rounds in Chicagoland on our wonderful courses. The season culminated with a post-renovation return trip to Shoreacres. Seth Raynor’s special golf course has been upgraded to world-class status through the efforts of Superintendent Brian Palmer, with consultation by Tom Doak and Renaissance Golf. For me now, there is a three-horse race for best course in Chicago among Old Elm, Chicago GC, and Shoreacres. They are all that good.
In addition to these new Faves, I also knocked 3 more U.S. Open venues off of my bucket list – The Country Club at Brookline, Chicago Golf Club and North Shore Country Club.
For the first time in my life, I played dirt golf on an unfinished golf course. Not only did I get to play dirt golf, but I did it twice under special circumstances on courses that are sure to be beyond special.
This summer, I was fortunate enough to have a tour of The Loop at Forest Dunes with Tom Doak, during which we played several holes in both directions. I thought that the reversible course was a cool concept, but until I saw it and heard Tom’s commentary, I didn’t understand just how amazing it is going to be. Cannot wait for the opening.
In the fall, my buddy Chuck let me tag along on his visit to Sand Valley where we spent the day touring the course with Michael and Chris Keiser, and playing some of the holes that were in the grow-in stage. This was the first Coore & Crenshaw course which I thought might challenge Friar’s Head for top Fave spot for me. Here is a link to my recap of the visit with photos of the course.
Through all of these amazing experiences on fantastic courses, this year I got a much deeper understanding of what makes this game so great. Time spent with good people, outside, taking on the challenge of a collaboration between an architect and Mother Nature.
I made new friends at my club, in my community, and across the country. In my experience, golf geekery brings together the best people, and brings out the best in them.
Without further ado, the rest of the 2015 tour. Here’s to a great 2016!
Copyright 2015 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf