A pattern seems to be developing. As I watch the snow fall out my window, I reflect back and think, “It can’t get any better than this year’s golf tour.” And then the next year comes around, and it does. That was the story of 2016. Just when I thought golf adventuring couldn’t get any better, it did.
I got around quite a bit this year. First the stats: Played 51 courses (30 for the first time), including 6 U.S. Open Venues, in 15 states. Gloriously exhausting, and tremendously rewarding.
Before getting into detail on the courses played, a few takeaways from the year:
This was the year I realized that I don’t like playing alone all that much anymore. I would rather be in the company of a fellow geek or two. Being able to share these adventures with kindred spirits makes the experiences richer, including geeking out about golf on long car rides or over a well-earned meal and drink. This year, I had the good fortune of deepening existing friendships, and creating new ones around the country. Golf is magical that way.
Golf has always been a walking sport for me. This year, I came to realize that riding in a cart takes too much away from the experience for me to do it. Even if it means that my game suffers a bit from fatigue, I prefer to walk. Hiking around Sand Hollow, 81 holes in a day and half at Prairie Dunes, 45 holes at Sand Hills – sure, these walks were taxing. But I like the exercise and the experience of the courses is significantly more vivid. There might come a day when I am no longer able to walk and play. On that day, I will take a cart. Until then, it’s walking for me.
Although I did play in quite a few fun matches with friends, I did not keep score once this year. In 2016, it didn’t seem to matter, so I didn’t bother. It was quite liberating. I was still plenty happy to make pars and birdies, but there was no pressure to do so. Instead, I was freed up to attempt creative shots that, when pulled off, are the golfing memories I cherish the most.
Finally, I fell in love with the replay this year, or as my buddy Peter says, “Going around and around.” My weekend at Prairie Dunes, and replays of great courses like Shoreacres, Crystal Downs, Sand Hills, and Boston Golf Club brought this into focus for me. Playing new courses is great, but I find myself yearning more and more for the depth of experience that comes from the replay.
Enough philosophizing, on to the course highlights of 2016.
One course cracked my Top 5 favorites this year – Sand Hills. Those who have been know how magnificent it is. It is perfect. Beautiful land, with 18 wonderful holes laid upon it. For a photo tour, check out my September to Remember post here.
Two additional courses cracked my Top 10 – Myopia Hunt Club and Prairie Dunes.
Playing Myopia is like stepping back in time to an era that pre-dates formal architectural styles. It is a special place. For much more on Myopia, check out Jon Cavalier’s course tour and my June Buddies Trip Recap.
My weekend at Prairie Dunes was an all-timer. After 81 holes in a day and a half, I got to know the course well, and I am grateful for the chance. Strategy and variety abound, and those greens…oh my. For a complete tour of Prairie Dunes, check out my visit recap here.
Four additional courses cracked my Top 20 – Philadelphia Cricket Club, Oakmont, Kittansett Club, and Ballyneal.
Keith Foster’s work restoring Tillinghast’s Philly Cricket is off the charts. It is breathtaking and all the right kinds of challenging.
Oakmont is of course, Oakmont. It was a neat treat to get to play this incredible course in a U.S. Open year. Many hours of sleep were sacrificed for the experience, and it was worth every minute.
Kittansett Club, with the benefit of a Gil Hanse restoration, blew me away. This William Flynn design might be the best flat-site golf course in America.
Like so many do, I fell in love with the Ballyneal experience. Great golf-geeky membership, and my favorite Tom Doak course to date (yes, I have played Pacific Dunes).
My quest to play all of the U.S. Open venues continued this year, and I knocked six more off the list – Glen View Club, Myopia Hunt Club, Philadelphia Cricket Club, Oakmont, Erin Hills, and Inverness Club. A wide variety, all wonderful courses.
(Click images to enlarge)
I had high expectations for most of the courses I played this year, but there were a handful that exceeded my expectations. My biggest surprises of the year were Orchard Lake, Sand Hollow, Whitinsville, Highland Links, George Wright, and Sweetens Cove.
After coming across a photo tour of the newly renovated Orchard Lake Country Club on GolfClubAtlas, I was dying to see it. What Keith Foster and Superintendent Aaron McMaster have done there is jaw-dropping. For even more on Orchard Lake, check out my C.H. Alison appreciation post here.
Sand Hollow is one of the most unique golf courses I have ever played. The terrain is amazing, it has great holes – it is just plain cool. I already have a return visit planned for February, 2017. For more photos, check out my Las Vegas trip recap here.
My golf buddies were a little skeptical when I added a 9-holer they had never heard of to our Boston itinerary. After the first time around Whitinsville, they asked if we could stay the whole day. They simply do not make courses like this anymore.
The early morning trek out to the end of Cape Cod was worth the effort. The Highland Links waits there, nearly untouched by time, and perhaps America’s only true links course outside of Bandon, OR.
Boston has an embarrassment of riches in private golf, but it was a public track that pleasantly surprised me the most this season – George Wright. The story of its creation as a WPA project, with Donald Ross as architect blasting holes out of the rock with dynamite is terrific. In recent years, this gem has been getting the polish it deserves.
Every golf geek I know who has made the pilgrimage to Sweetens Cove has come back a convert. Count me among them – Sweetens Cove is everything that is great about golf, and golf course architecture, all packed into 9 holes. For more about Sweetens Cove, check out my interview with Rob Collins, including his course tour.
Toward the end of the season, it became evident that I have developed a fascination with 9-holers. Winter Park CC, The Dunes Club, Whitinsville, Marion GC, Highland Links, Sweetens Cove, and Eagle Springs were all highlights for me in 2016. I intend to include as many 9-holers as I can in my adventures going forward.
After another year of unbelievable golf experiences with great people, I am tremendously grateful. Many thanks to those who have pitched in to make these adventures possible. Time to start lining up 2017…
Happy New Year!
Copyright 2016 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf