Tuesday, January 1, 2019

2018 Year in Review

2018 was a banner year for me.  I played 160 new golf courses, destroying my previous best of 129 in 2009.  Early in the year I started thinking about the possibility of playing 150+ because of a great start to the year that I hadn't had in previous years.
The 3rd & 4th Holes at Misquamicut, my favorite course played in 2018
The over-ridding theme for this year was Donald Ross.  At some point during the year I decided that playing every course designed by Ross would be a great lifetime goal.  The current Ross Society listing has 360ish active courses designed or re-designed by Donald Ross.  Even with adding 40 this year I am still not even at 50%, current count 172.  I will be making several trips to the Northeast, Ohio, and Michigan over the next several years to accomplish this goal.  This year I made a wonderful trip to New England where I played nine Ross courses in four days.  I also finished up playing every Ross course in NC.  So with that being said, let's begin at the beginning:

The Cradle at Pinehurst
The year started, quite literally, with snow.  The Pinehurst area saw a rare major snowstorm on January 3rd and another one two weeks later.  We never get snow in Pinehurst and significant accumulation is unheard of.  My boss gave me the day off because of the snow so with cabin fever majorly creeping on me, I decided to do something fun.  I took a walk around Pinehurst photographing the snow and used stock photos to do a compare and contrast.  Above and below are two examples.
Pinehurst #3
Stone Eagle
In the past few years, I have taken a trip to the Hilton Head area in January with friends.  This year that trip didn't happen so I started exploring possible destinations for a January trip.  I was going to Florida in March, so that was out.  I wanted to stay in the US, so that left me with Arizona, California, and Texas as possible destinations.  I chose Southern California as my destination because a friend told me that he could get me on the North course at Los Angeles Country Club.  Ultimately that didn't work out and LACC continues to elude me, but the trip was still amazing.  Highlights were a round at Wilshire with a friend of mine I hadn't seen in a few years and a trip around Stone Eagle, a Tom Doak wonder carved out of mountainous rock.  Profile of that trip is here:  California Trip Review
After thinking about it for a couple years, I finally took the leap and started this blog in February.  Creating the blog was a natural progression from joining Instagram in 2015 and posting photos of every course I play.  Because of my desire to produce a quality photo for Instagram, I was now taking very comprehensive photos of every course I played and felt that I finally had enough content to use for a blog.

I have really enjoyed doing the blog.  It's an opportunity to look back at some wonderful trips I have taken over the years, and my motivation to take good photos makes me "stop and smell the roses" when I play.  Those of you who have played with me understand why that is important (I'm a little fast).  Thank you to everybody reading this for taking time out of your lives to read about my golf adventures.
Hawk's Nest
I made my semi-annual trip to Florida in March.  With my newfound Ross goal, my first, second, and last stops were all Donald Ross courses.  The highlight of the trip was a wonderful 54-hole day in Vero Beach, playing the Pete Dye designed North & South courses at John's Island and the Jim Fazio designed Hawk's Nest Club.  Trip review is here:  Florida Spring Trip Review
San Jose
CC of Louisiana
My parents decided we should take a vacation as a family in 2018.  We hadn't taken a vacation together in over ten years.  Originally we had planned on going to Key West but with the damage sustained from Hurricane Irma, we decided to look elsewhere.  My family decided to make New Orleans our destination.  I had never planned on visiting New Orleans in my life because as a quiet and shy non-drinker it didn't really have much appeal to me.  We made the best of it though and had a good time checking out the city and playing golf on the way down and back.  Profile of that trip is here:  New Orleans Trip Review
Kiva Dunes
Bald Head Island on the coast of NC
Early on in the year I made a decision that my wife and I should start taking weekend trips together.  My wife loves playing golf, we met through golf, but because of her work schedule she is not able to play as much as she likes.  I decided to change that.  Our first trip was in February to Bald Head Island, and we made subsequent trips to the Georgia mountains, the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, the North Carolina Mountains a few times, Tennessee, and Charleston.
Hendersonville in the mountains of NC
Highlights were meeting a certain celebrity in Georgia, more on that later, playing golf in the rain at Hendersonville because we were both hitting the ball well and didn't want to quit, and a lovely ferry ride on a beautiful Sunday morning at Bald Head.  My wife played 35 new golf courses this year and reached 200 total golf courses played.  I can't begin to tell you how proud I am of her and how lucky I am to have such a wonderful wife.
Cateechee in GA
As I said earlier, my new goal is to play every golf course designed by Donald Ross, so a quick trip to New England to play as many Ross courses as I could in four days was a necessity.  The trip began in Massachusetts at Longmeadow, ended at Knickerbocker in New Jersey, and in between saw several rounds in Rhode Island and Connecticut, including my favorite new course played this year, The Misquamicut Club.  Trip review for that journey is here:  Donald Ross Trip Review
Now that we're almost halfway through my year, it's time for the part that only I care about, the Miscellaneous Statistics!!!

New Courses Played:       160
States Played in:               21
9 Hole Courses played:    12

Top 10 Courses by Architect

40   Donald Ross
6     Tom Fazio
5     Jack Nicklaus
5     Arnold Palmer
5     Russell Breeden
4     Pete Dye
4     George Cobb
4     Arthur Hills
3     Tom Doak
3     Wayne Stiles
3     Rees Jones

Top 10 Courses by State

29    North Carolina
19    South Carolina
18    Florida
14    Maine
12    California
12    Georgia
11    Virginia
10    New Hampshire
6      Rhode Island
5      Michigan

Milestones Reached

1.  State #48 played in - Maine
2.  250 golf courses played in NC
3.  100 golf courses played in SC, 5th state to get to 100
4.  200 golf courses played by my wife

Favorite Course:                 Misquamicut   
Least Favorite Course:       Maderas
Most Overrated:                 Old Corkscrew
Most Underrated:               Cape Arundel

Favorite Par 3:  12th Hole-Bald Peak Colony
Favorite Par 4:  18th hole-Stone Eagle   
Favorite Par 5:  11th hole-Ram's Hill       

What's in a name

A fun breakdown of golf course names from 2018
(47)Landforms: Bluff, Canyon, Cape, Castle, Cliff, Desert, Dune, Farm, Field, Foothills, Forest, Garden, Hill, Island, Meadow, Mesa, Mound, Mountain, Orchard, Park, Peak, Plantation, Pointe, Quarry, Ranch, Ridge, Rock, Shore, Trail, Valley, Vineyards, Vista
(29)Water: Bay, Beach, Brook, Creek, Fountain, Harbor, Lake, Ocean, Rain, River, Sea, Waterfall
(14)Directions: East, North, South, West
(12)Trees: Cedar, Dogwood, Maple, Oak, Pine, Willow
(7)Animals: Bear, Eagle, Hawk, Mallard, Pelican, Ram
(4)The word "Old"
(3)States:  Florida, Georgia, Louisiana
(3)Colors: Black, Red, White
(3)Food: Bacon, Oyster, Strawberry
(2)The word "Links"
(1)The word "National"
Alphabet-All letters except Q,X,Z

Best Scores

66- Bethlehem
67- Hyde Park, Northeast Harbor, McCanless
68- Stone Eagle, Shady Canyon, Daytona Beach (South), Winding Creek, Waynesville Inn, Wentworth by the Sea, Corbin Hills, Olde Atlanta, Mountain Glen (on my B-Day!)

Worst Scores


Lake Winnipasukee
My wife and I take a big vacation every year and this year we planned the trip around playing golf in Maine, the last state in the continental 48 I had yet to play in.  The trip was beyond amazing and it provided us with so many wonderful memories including another very interesting celebrity encounter, see below.  I played 24 golf courses in nine days on the trip and experienced the best of mountain and coastal golf.  Part one of the trip is here:  Maine Trip Part 1 and part two is here: Maine Trip Part 2
Bald Peak Colony
I've teased it twice so let's talk about the celebrity encounters we had in 2018.  I have met and played golf with several PGA Tour members in my life and I don't really see them as celebrities but the two people we met this year are definitely in the celebrity camp:

1.  My wife and I were playing The Waterfall Club in the mountains of Georgia on a glorious May afternoon.  The putting green at Waterfall is located right above the 18th green.  I was up on the putting green and my wife was sitting in the cart when a group finished out on 18 and drove up towards the clubhouse.  They parked right next to our cart and a gentlemen got out of the cart and started talking to my wife.  They chatted for a couple minutes about the course, weather, usual stuff.
The VERY downhill Par 3 2nd hole at Waterfall
 I look down and realize my wife is talking to Nick Saban.  He was wearing his Alabama straw hat and an Alabama golf shirt.  I couldn't exactly walk down from the putting green and say "Hey Coach, big fan!" So I stayed on the putting green and watched my wife talk to him.  He was very nice and after a couple minutes, headed up to the clubhouse . As soon as he left I immediately went down the hill and said to my wife "You just talked to the greatest college football coach in history!"  To which she replied, "Okay."  She didn't care one bit. 
5th and 6th holes at Waterfall
2.  One of the last rounds on our trip to Maine was at Cape Arundel.  Those of you who have played it or heard of it already know who we met.  We had the first tee time of the day on a beautiful Saturday morning.  When we arrived at 6:25, the guy in the golf shop told us that President George W. Bush would be playing in front of us.  The guy in the shop assured us that he wouldn't hold us up, naturally I thought, "Yeah, right" as I am one of the fastest players on planet earth and my wife isn't exactly slow either.   They put his golf cart right in front of ours.
1st Hole at Cape Arundel
We were sitting in our cart when the two big SUV's pulled up.  As they pulled up my wife leaned over to me and said "Should we be standing at attention or something?"  To which I replied, "No idea." He got out of the car and immediately came over to say hi to us.  He shook both our hands and was very nice.  He also assured us that he wouldn't hold us up.  One other guy was playing with him and they headed to the first tee at 6:55 along with three carts of Secret Service, including one cart with a guy with a large duffel bag full of "something."  
Par 3 6th hole at Cape Arundel, entrance road is literally 2 steps from the left edge of the green
To my shock, President Bush was 100% correct, we never caught them.  Once the trailing cart was in our way because he was hanging back too far but the President said something to him and he closed his gap.  After four holes, they were two holes ahead of us.  We only really interacted with them on the course once, when they were looking for a ball in an adjoining fairway.  It was pretty funny to see two golfers and six Secret Service Agents looking for a golf ball in the trees!  The 10th green at Cape Arundel is right next to the thirteenth green and while we were on ten they were on thirteen, that was my best opportunity to get a picture, but the Secret Service were staring daggers at me so all my pictures of the experience are from afar.
President and entourage on the back nine
The entrance drive to Cape Arundel cuts right through the 18th fairway.  As we were driving up 18 we saw the SUV's getting ready to leave so we parked and watched them leave.  We waved to the president as he drove by.  He blew my wife a kiss and she "caught it"  That made him smile.  Meeting a president was never really a goal of mine but it was still a very cool experience.
Motorcade leaving Cape Arundel

Crystal Downs
Last year my buddy from Florida and I took a road trip to play in the Renaissance Cup in Michigan.  We had such a good time, we decided to do a trip this year.  Michigan was again our main destination but we also enjoyed rounds in Wisconsin and Illinois.  The overwhelming highlight of the trip was a return to Crystal Downs & The Kingsley Club, two golf courses in my personal top 30 that I hadn't played for 11 years.  We played both of these courses on a gorgeous Friday and I would put this combo up there as one of the ten best 36 hole days in golf.  Trip review is here:  Michigan/Wisconsin Trip
Kingsley Club
Carolina Golf Club during the USGA Mid-Amateur

The USGA played the Men's Mid-Amateur championship in Charlotte this year.  The stroke play qualifying was being played at Carolina Golf Club and Charlotte Country Club with the match play continuing at Charlotte.  A friend of mine from California qualified for the tournament and I decided to take the afternoon off on Saturday to watch him play his first qualifying round at Carolina. My wife and I arrived at the course Saturday afternoon with the intention of watching nine holes and heading home.  
I was shocked to discover my friend did not have a caddy.  It was a typical North Carolina summer day, 90 degrees, sunny, and very humid.  Carrying your own bag in this weather would be horrible for somebody trying to qualify for match play.  With my wife's kind indulgence, I volunteered to caddy for my friend.  I have many years of experience caddying so it wasn't a big deal to me, and anything I could do to help his chances of qualifying, I was happy to do.  
Great picture, one guy scratching his ass, another guy who looks like he's peeing on the sign and me in my dark attire perfect for a hot and humid day.
He struggled a bit on day one but rallied on day two at Charlotte and ended up in a 16 for 12 playoff Monday morning to get into match play.  The playoff ultimately didn't work out for him but I had a great weekend caddying in my first USGA event.
lights on the driving range at Charlotte Country Club for the 7:30 am playoff 


Pennrose Park, a wonderful nine hole Ross course
Last year I was fortunate to play two of the best nine hole golf courses in the country, Sweetens Cove in Tennessee and Culver Academics in Indiana.  Playing these courses got me thinking about how I have over-looked and dismissed nine hole courses over the years as not worth my time.  This was obviously a very foolish thing to do as there are great nine hole courses all over the country and you are just punishing yourself if you don't take the time to play them. 
The Donald Ross designed 9 hole Emerywood course at High Point Country Club
My new goal is to play 100 nine hole golf courses.  I am currently at 41 so I have a long way to go, but I am very much looking forward to the pursuit.  This year I had the pleasure of playing twelve nine hole courses, three of which were designed by Donald Ross. I also got to play The Cradle at Pinehurst.  While not exactly an original idea, I do give Pinehurst credit for embracing the short course movement.
The Cradle at Pinehurst
new 8th hole at Augusta CC
The final trip I made in 2018 was a trip to Florida that began with a day-and-a-half in Georgia.  I was privileged to be invited to a small gathering to see the newly renovated Augusta Country Club. I also played three more Ross courses and played my 1500th golf course at Isleworth in Orlando.  Trip Review is here:  Florida Winter Trip
2nd Hole at Isleworth, my 1500th Golf Course Played
Here are my eclectic 18 holes for this year.  I used one hole per course and my goal was to put together the best 18 holes, pictures go from top left to right:

#1   Lake Winnipesaukee

#2   Waterfall Club

#3   York Golf & Tennis

#4   Wilshire

#5   Cape Arundel

#6   Santa Ana

#7   Sand Valley

#8   Misquamicut

#9   Pelican Hills (North)

#10 Sugarloaf

#11 Rams Hill

#12 Bald Peak Colony

#13 Mammoth Dunes

#14 Hawks Nest

#15 Boonsboro

#16 Portland

#17 Tradition

#18 Stone Eagle

I played so many courses this year I wasn't able to fit all of the scorecards in one picture:

Pencils were a little bit easier:

My travel plans for 2019 are starting to take shape.  I will continue with my January trip to warmer climates with a trip to Texas in late January.  March will see a return to Florida.  In May I hope to take a trip to Boston to play as many Ross courses as I can in 5-6 days.  Nothing yet on the books for the summer but my buddy and I are eyeing a trip to Denver at some point to play Ballyneal and a few others in the Rocky Mountain state.  September will see my annual National Park trip with my wife.  This year we will be hitting Yosemite, Kings Canyon, and Sequoia National Parks with golf in San Francisco, Lake Tahoe, and Pebble Beach.   Weekend trips with the wife to various destinations will continue as well.  

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like an amazing year! Congrats and the best to you and your wife in 2019!


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