Monday, October 12, 2020

Alt Canada, Mostly Donald Ross Trip

My wife and I had been planning an epic trip to Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Maine, and Massachusetts for 2020, but with the Canadian border closed and those states requiring quarantines, we were forced to look at other options.  

We decided on a driving trip that would use Donald Ross courses in Ohio and Michigan as a framework and expanded to other places.  The trip ended up being 26 courses, 14 of which were touched by Donald Ross.  

Our trip began in Southern Ohio at Elks Country Club, formerly referred to as Portsmouth Elks in McDermott. Sadly all of the bunkers have been removed from this 1924 Ross design.  It's a real tragedy when you see pictures of what was there before. 

Elks Country Club, Par four 15th hole

Next up on day one we headed to Athens, Ohio for a round at the nine hole Ross designed Athens Country Club.  

Athens Country Club, par four 4th hole in foreground and par three 5th hole in background

We wrapped up a full day of Ross courses with a round at Denison Golf Club in Granville, Ohio.  This 1924 Ross design is another great example of why Ross was the best router of golf courses.  He wisely used the flattish land near the clubhouse for the first three holes and then expanded out into the more interesting terrain for the majority of the course.  

Denison Golf Club, par three 6th hole

Day two of the trip began in Lancaster, Ohio for a round at Lancaster Country Club, which featured nine holes of Donald Ross and nine holes designed by Jack Kidwell.  Kidwell was a local Ohio architect, and he added holes or modified several Ross courses in Ohio.
Lancaster Country Club, par four 6th hole

We took a small break from Donald Ross on day two for a round at Cooks Creek Golf Club in South Bloomfield, Ohio.  Cooks Creek is a Hurdzan & Fry design that featured input from PGA Tour pro John Cook, whose family operates the course.  The course has clearly seen better days and I really hope it recovers from its current issues because what's on the ground is pretty good.
Cooks Creek Golf Club, par four 10th hole

We headed to Northern Ohio for our last stop on day two.  Mohawk Country Club is in Tiffin, Ohio and is the home to two college golf teams.  The generally flat layout features some great surprises like a very cool short par three and a drivable, cape like par four over a waste area.
Mohawk Golf & Country Club, par five 11th hole

Day three began with the East course at Warren Valley Golf Club in Dearborn Heights, Michigan.  Both courses at Warren Valley were designed by Ross in 1922.  The East features more of the original design than the West including some potential great par 3's with a little TLC.
Warren Valley East Course, par three 7th hole

The biggest surprise, and best course we played on the trip, was up next on day three.  The University of Michigan golf course was designed by Alister MacKenzie in the late 1920's.  Although some changes have been made over the years, the course is largely preserved and showcases what made MacKenzie, designer of Cypress Point and Augusta National, the greatest architect in golf.  
University of Michigan Golf Course, par four 6th hole

Last up on day three was a Ross gem, Western Golf & Country Club in Redford, Michigan.  What makes Western unique is that a golf course was able to be built on such a narrow piece of property.  Ross expertly used the creek that cuts through the property to maximum effect and gets maximum use out of every inch of the small property.

Western Golf & Country Club, par three 12th hole

Day four began with the other course at Warren Valley, the West course.  The property on the West is a little less interesting, and has obviously been modified considerably more than the East course.

Warren Valley West Course, par four 10th hole

We headed North for the 2nd and 3rd courses on day four.  The first stop was in Clarkston, Michigan where we played Shepherd's Hollow Golf Club.  Designed by Arthur Hills, the course features three nines.  We played the 1-9 and 10-18 nines.  After playing pretty mediocre for the first few days I suddenly found my swing at Shepherd's Hollow and shot a very smooth 66.  There was absolutely no warning that this was coming, one of the things I love about golf, you never know what is going to show up day to day!

Shepherd's Hollow Golf club, par five 12th hole

We again headed North to Grand Blanc, Michigan for a round at long time PGA Tour host, Warwick Hills Golf & Country Club.  Originally designed by James Harrison in the 1950's, most of what exists today came from a Joe Lee re-design in the 1970's.  The course hosted the Buick Open on the PGA tour for forty years, and two weeks before we visited hosted a Champions Tour event.

Warwick Hills, par three 17th hole

Our fifth day began in Lake Orion at Indianwood Golf & Country Club.  I played the Old course at Indianwood fourteen years ago and was now returning to play the New course, a 1980's Bob Cupp and Tom Kite design.  The course was built to be difficult and features lots of target golf style holes.

Indianwood New Course, par three 10th hole

Next up on day five was the Charles Alison designed Plum Hollow Country Club in Southfield, Michigan.  Alison is an expert at maximizing the potential of a site with water and elevation and Plum Hollow is a great example of this.

Plum Hollow Country Club, par three 5th hole

The day wrapped up at Grosse Ile Golf & Country Club on the island of Grosse Ile in Michigan.  The course was designed by Donald Ross in 1920.  

Grosse Ile Golf & Country Club, par four 5th hole

The sixth day of our trip began at the Donald Ross designed Monroe Golf & Country Club in Michigan.  Another course with a generally flat piece of property that was transformed into a very interesting course.

Monroe Golf & Country club, par four 17th hole

The biggest surprise of the trip was the wild and wonderful Sylvania Country Club just northwest of Toledo, Ohio.  A Willie Park Jr design on a magnificent piece of property, the course features one of the most dramatic 1, 9, 10, 18 areas I have ever seen.

Sylvania Country Club, par three 9th hole(foreground), par three 3rd hole(back right), par five 8th hole(back left)

Another wonderful Charles Alison design, Westwood Country Club near Cleveland, brought day six to a wonderful conclusion.

Westwood Country Club, par three 4th hole

Manakiki Golf Course in Cleveland is where day seven on the trip began.  An original Donald Ross design, the course has made steady improvements over the years as the Cleveland Parks service has recognized what a valuable Ross gem they have.

Manakiki Golf course, par four 18th hole

The second course on day seven was my wife's first Walter Travis design.  Youngstown Country Club also saw modifications from Donald Ross, combing the talents of two of my favorite designers.

Youngstown Country Club, par three 9th hole

We finished day seven at The Club at Nevillewood in the hills west of Pittsburgh.  We were racing to get done before a severe thunderstorm hit.  Nevillewood was designed by Jack Nicklaus.

The Club at Nevillewood, par five 3rd hole

The eighth day of our trip brought us to the east side of Pittsburgh and a round at Longue Vue Club.  The co-host of the US Amateur next year with Oakmont, Longue Vue has done significant work to improve the original Robert White design.  Tree removal and many other changes have made the course one of the best in Pennsylvania.

Longue Vue Club, par five 4th hole.  Recent removal now allows you to see the river from this vantage point

 After a heavy thunderstorm washed out two scheduled courses on day eight, day nine began in the rain at the nine hole Ross designed Immergrun Golf Club in Loretto, Pennsylvania.  Luckily they did not get as much rain as the Pittsburgh area.

Immergrun Golf Club, 8th(bottom),6th(middle), and 2nd(rear) greens

The last Ross course of the trip, Lewistown Country Club, has nine holes of Ross left, and it features strong greens and a wonderful setting in the hills of Pennsylvania.

Lewistown Country Club, par four 12th hole

With plenty of daylight left after my twenty-seven holes of Donald Ross, we stopped in Hagerstown, Maryland for a round at Beaver Creek Country Club.

Beaver Creek Country Club, par three 7th hole

The last course on the trip brought back memories of my childhood.  When I was thirteen years old my dad took me to play the Stoney Creek course at Wintergreen. Twenty-Seven years later I returned to play the Devil's Knob course.  Designed by Ellis Maples, Devil's Knob has the distinction of being the highest elevated course in Virginia.

Devil's Knob Golf Course, par three 17th hole




Sunday, August 2, 2020

Deep South Road Trip

I eagerly ended my four month hiatus from overnight trips in July with two trips to the Deep South.  The first was to play courses in Mississippi and Alabama with a stop in Atlanta.  The second was to play a few courses Northwest of Atlanta with stops in the Chattanooga and Nashville areas.  For the purposes of this narrative I will be combing the two trips into one.  

The first stop on my trip was a course I was teased by four years ago.  Mossy Oak Golf Club is a 2016 Gil Hanse design in West Point, Mississippi.  I was in the area in the summer of 2016 playing it's sister course, Old Waverly, which is across the street.  After my round at OM I drove over to Mossy and walked around for a bit.  The course was almost ready to go and looked amazing in my brief tour around the property.  

Playing the course exceeded my already lofty expectations of what I saw four years ago.  I really applaud the superintendent for having what I would consider to be the perfect maintenance meld.  Fairways that are healthy yet running, and greens that are firm yet receptive, make for an amazing day on the golf course.  I was a little intimated to play the 7200+ tips as I am not a long hitter and generally prefer something in the neighborhood of 6800 yards.  However, the course playing firm allowed me to get a sufficient amount of run if I hit the fairway and I was able to play it without having to resort to hitting fairway woods into par fours.

Mossy Oak, Par Four 3rd Hole

Mossy Oak, Par Three 11th Hole

Mossy Oak, Par Five 17th Hole

My second stop on Day one was the Ol' Colony Golf Complex in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  This 2000 Jerry Pate design has a unique history as it was once a farm plantation for a mental institution called Boy's Colony.

O'l Colony, Par Four 2nd Hole

O'l Colony, Par Three 17th Hole

Day two of my trip began with a round at a course whose history goes all the way back to 1903, Highland Park Golf Course in Birmingham.  The oldest course in Alabama, Highland Park was the site of a victory by Bobby Jones in the Birmingham Country Club Invitational.  In 1998 architect Bob Cupp renovated the course.  The result is a short but challenging layout that utilizes the undulations of the property to maximum effect.
Highland Park, Par Three 5th Hole

Highland Park, 18th Green (foreground) & 10th Green (background)

Up next on day two was another course I was teased by a few years ago. I played the West course at the Country Club of Birmingham in 2015, but time did not allow me to play the East course.  Recent renovation work by architect John LaFoy was done in a Ross style to honor the original Donald Ross design.  The East was my 206th Donald Ross designed golf course played.
CC of Birmingham East, Par Three 7th Hole

CC of Birmingham, Par Three 13th Hole

CC of Birmingham East, Par Four 16th Hole

The third course I played on day two had me driving about forty-five minutes north of Birmingham to the town of Oneonta.  Limestone Springs is a 1999 Jerry Pate design on a hilly piece of property.  The course was in the top ten in the state of Alabama ten years ago and the core design of the course is very good.

Limestone Springs, Par Four 3rd Hole

Limestone Springs, Par Four 15th Hole

Day three of the trip began at the Heritage Golf Links in Atlanta.  A 1996 Mike Young design, Heritage features twenty-seven holes of great variety.  Sharp edges and challenging greens made precision very important on my first tour around the course.  I played the Legacy and Tradition nines.

Heritage Golf Links, Legacy Nine, Par Four 2nd Hole

Heritage Golf Links, Tradition Nine, Par Three 1st Hole 

For my next round on day three, I headed north of Atlanta to Adairsville for a round at Barnsley Resort, a 1999 Jim Fazio design.  What made this round memorable was doing something I hadn't done in 24 years, birdie 5 holes in a row.  See scorecard below.
I'm not the kind of person that normally makes 5 birdies in a round, so 5 in a row is very significant.  I also did something else I'm not sure I've ever done, which is play a round where I had more birdies than pars; 8 birdies, 7 pars, 3 bogeys.  A very memorable round of golf!
Barnsley Resort, Par three 7th Hole

Barnsley Resort, Par three 14th Hole
Day four of the trip began at the recently renovated McLemore Club.  Formerly known as Canyon Ridge Country Club, McLemore was renovated by Bill Bergin last year and opened to great acclaim.  I have played many Bill Bergin renovations in the last few years and I can say with great certainty he does an amazing job.
The McLemore Club, Par four 2nd Hole

Here's a little photo essay to show something very smart that McLemore did that I wish other courses with dramatic elevation changes would do.  
McLemore has a par five, #6, with a dramatic drop for the 2nd shot. 

View of the 2nd shot on the Par five 6th Hole

It's always very difficult to figure out just how much distance to take off when hitting a shot like this so McLemore made a sign that they placed at the end of the fairway.

This sign is extremely helpful when hitting a very difficult 2nd shot

A look back up the hill from behind the green

After a round on the big course, I took a few minutes to play the six-hole short course, which is a brilliant use of a small piece of property.  Six walking only holes under 100 yards allow you to hit a nice variety of shots.
McLemore Short Course

Renovation of an existing course was the theme of day four as I headed North to the town of College Grove, Tennessee for a round at the Troubadour Golf and Field Club.    Formerly known as the Hideaway at Arrington, Troubadour was recently renovated by Tom Fazio and is the newest Discovery Land Property.
Troubadour Golf & Field Club, Par four 1st Hole

Troubadour Golf & Field Club, Par three 11th Hole

The last round of the trip was at one of the best municipal facilities in the country, Cobblestone Golf Course in Acworth, Georgia.  Designed by Ken Dye, brother of Pete, Cobblestone started life as the Boulder Course at Acworth and was later purchased by the county.

Cobblestone Golf Course, Par Three 3rd Hole
Cobblestone Golf Course, Par Four 4th Hole



Alt Canada, Mostly Donald Ross Trip

My wife and I had been planning an epic trip to Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Maine, and Massachusetts for 2020, but with the Canadian border ...