Friday, January 5, 2024

2023 Year in Review

I say this every year, but 2023 was a great year in golf for me.  It was my second full year as a resident of the Charleston area and I took full advantage of the area and my extended breaks from work.  This year my wife and I would leave the country in search of great golf, and return to our favorite place on earth after a long absence.  I also took memorable trips to Michigan and Wisconsin, as well as my customary trip to Florida.  The end of the year provided a very unexpected highlight that I never thought I would get to experience as well. 

Cabot Cliffs, my favorite course of 2023

I also set a new personal record for rounds played in 2023- 264 rounds.  This included 106 rounds at work!

106 round at work this year!

One last spin around the Blue at sunrise!

I once again began my travel in 2023 with a trip to Florida.  This trip was more emotional as I was saying goodbye to my regular visits to Streamsong Resort, a place I have visited every year since it was built in 2011.  Read all about my last round on the wonderful Blue course here: Florida Spring 2023

Belleair Country Club, West Course


Brook Hollow Country Club

I returned to Texas in 2023 to play a bucket list course in Dallas, but the big surprise of the trip came from just over the border in Oklahoma, with a newly restored Perry Maxwell design.  Check my adventures in the Dallas area and side trip to Oklahoma here: Texas Trip 

Lakewood Country Club


Pittsburgh Field Club

I planned a trip to Pennsylvania in 2023 around playing one of the top 10 courses in the country that I hadn't seen in a very long time.  What ultimately happened that day was something even more interesting than I could have anticipated.  Read about my trip to the golf rich state of Pennsylvania here: Western PA Trip

St. David's Golf Club


Old Barnwell Golf Club

I played two courses this year that weren't part of a big trip that I wanted to mention because both were definite highlights.  Old Barnwell near Aiken, South Carolina, designed by Blake Conant and Brian Schneider, is an exciting addition to the South Carolina golf scene.  The other highlight course I played was Wicker Point in Lake Martin, Alabama designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw.  The course sits right on the aforementioned lake and is everything you love about C&C designs.

Wicker Point Golf Club


New Courses Played:       165
States Played in:               18
9 Hole Courses played:    18

Top 10 Courses by Architect

34   Donald Ross
7     Nicklaus
7     Robert Trent Jones
4     George Cobb
4     Colt/Alison
3     Bendelow
2     20 Architects

Top 10 Courses by State

24    Michigan
16    South Carolina
14    Wisconsin
12    Alabama
12    Florida
12    Texas
11    Nova Scotia
10    Maine
9      Illinois
9     Massachusetts
9     Pennsylvania

Milestones Reached

1.  200 courses played in SC
2.  50 courses played in MI

Favorite Course:                Cabot Cliffs
Least Favorite Course:      Fairlawn
Most Overrated:                 Lido
Most Underrated:               Meadowbrook

Favorite Par 3:  5th Hole-Lost Rail
Favorite Par 4:  1st Hole-Penobscot Valley
Favorite Par 5:  1st Hole-Hooper

What's in a name

A fun breakdown of golf course names from 2023
(43)Landforms: Canyon, Cape, Cliff, Dune, Farm, Field, Forest, Hill, Hollow, Meadow, Orchard, Plantation, Park, Point, Preserve, Ridge, Shore, Valley, Woods, Woodlands
(30)Water: Bay, Beach, Brook, Cove, Creek, Harbour, Lake, River, Spring, Water
(12)Object/Man Made: Arrowhead, Bell, Brick, Gate, Inn, Mine, Nest, Rail, Rock, Star
(11)Animals: Bear, Bull, Cat, Eagle, Fox, Hawk, Horse, Pelican
(11)Directions: East, North, South, West
(9)Trees: Dogwood, Magnolia, Oak, Palm, Pine, Willow
(8)Colors: Blue, Gold, Orange, Red, Silver
(3)The word "Links"
(2)Food/Drink: Cider, Strawberry
(2)The word "Old"
(1)The word "National"
(1)States: Texas

Best Scores
64-Detroit Golf Club(South)
65-Yeamans Hall
66-Brightwood, Dedham, Field Club of Omaha, Meadowbrook, Sand Hills, Yeamans Hall

Worst Scores

80-The Lido, Yeamans Hall
79-Yeamans Hall
78-Avila, Yeamans Hall

                          CANADA TRIP

Me at Cabot Cliffs

My wife and I took a very ambitious two week trip to New England and Canada in 2023.  I broke the trip into sections by country.  Here you can read about our journey to Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and New Brunswick, with an incredible achievement for my wife at Cabot Cliffs: Canada Trip

Cape Breton Highlands Golf Club


Dedham Polo & Golf Club

The New England portion of our big trip featured a ton of Donald Ross courses as well as one of the best nine hole courses in the country.  Our trip to New England can be found here: New England Trip
Penobscot Valley Country Club

Sand Hills Golf Club, my favorite place on earth

In August of 2023 my wife and I returned to our favorite place on earth, Sand Hills.  It's impossible to top the experience at Sand Hills, but I was also very surprised by a new course in the Omaha area that I think has big potential.  Our emotional return to Nebraska is here: Nebraska Trip
Lost Rail Golf Club


Meadowbrook Country Club

I am very fortunate to have a two week break from work in late September and early October every year.  This year I took two trips to the Midwest during my time off.  First up was a trip to the Detroit, Michigan area that was heavy on Donald Ross designs, but also featured some wonderful surprises: Michigan Trip
Orchard Lake Country Club


West Bend Country Club

The second trip of my fall break revolved around a fun gathering at Sand Valley Resort in Northwest Wisconsin. But the highlights of the trip came from a couple courses just north of Milwaukee.  My journey through Chicago and Wisconsin is here:  Wisconsin Trip
Sedge Valley


One of the big highlights of the year came very late in the year and was very unexpected.  Since I started working at my current course, I had always wanted to play in the annual Pro-Member.  Our rule is you have to be invited by a member to play and, even though I play with members quite frequently, as the outside operations manager, my name is not really thought of as a possible partner for an event like this.  My club is the type that gets tour pros and pros from top 20 clubs in its Pro-Member, so it was more of a dream for somebody like me to be able to play in the tournament.  Through a very unexpected set of circumstances, we had an odd number of teams and the member I play with the most said "let's do it!" 

Day one of the tournament was an absolute dream for me.  I shot 65, including birdies on the final three holes.  We shot 59 as a team and were tied for the lead heading into day two.  I beat a couple of actual touring pros on day one, which is something I am usually not capable of doing!  We played less stellar on day two, but still finished third ahead of some very good professionals. 

During the tournament dinner I got to try Osso Bucco for the first time!


North Andover Country Club

I played eighteen new nine hole courses this year including two ranked in the top 50 in the world, Hooper and Castine, and one that should be, North Andover!  My New England trip provided the majority of the courses, but a unique course in Nebraska with an honor box, Pelican Beach, was a real treat.

Hooper Golf Course

                                             Par 3's 1 to 9
From Top L to R: #1-Concession Gimmie, #2-Eagle Springs, #3-The Lido, #4-Belleair(West), #5-Lost Rail, #6-Concord, #7-Ashburn(Old), #8-Ashburn(New), #9-Cabot Cliffs

Par 3's 10 to 18
From Top L to R: #10-Brook Hollow, #11-Meadowbrook(MI), #12-Wicker Point, #13-Antigonish, #14-Cabot Links, #15-Stillwater, #16-Penobscot Valley, #17-Dornick Hills, #18-Pittsburgh Field Club
Par 4's 1 to 9
From Top L to R: #1-Penobscot Valley, #2-Pittsburgh Field Club, #3-Cabot Cliffs, #4-Wanango, #5-St. David's, #6-Sedge Valley, #7-Brightwood, #8-Hooper, #9-Riverside(NB)

Par 4's 10 to 18
From Top L to R: #10-Conewango Valley, #11-Oakland Hills North, #12-ChampionsGate International, #13-Brook Hollow, #14-Woodstock, #15-Cabot Links, #16-West Bend, #17-Lost Rail, #18-Lakewood

Par 5's 1 to 9
From Top L to R: #1-Hooper, #2-Weston, #3-Pittsburgh Field Club, #4-Dundarave, #5-Brae Burn, #6-Cape Breton Highlands, #7-Cabot Cliffs, #8-Birmingham, #9-Brickyard

Par 5's 10 to 18
From Top L to R: #10-Stevens Park, #11-Fox Harb'r, #12-Conewango Valley, #13-Bull at Pinehurst Farms, #14-Orchard Lake, #15-Brook Hollow, #16-Dornick Hills, #17-Meadowbrook, #18-Lost Rail

I continued to collect ball markers from courses I played this year to contribute to our collection at work.  Read about the work collection here: A Collection is Born

Birdie is so eager to help when I try to put these things together!


As usual, we had a helper.  She has helped every year.  So nice of her!


Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Wisconsin Trip

It seems like every year I end up taking one trip I hadn't planned on at the beginning of the year.  This is a very good thing, yet it's also challenging for me.  I'm a meticulous planner, and taking a trip I didn't have as much time to plan for can stress me out.  Luckily the trip I ended up taking to Wisconsin in October of 2023 was not as stressful or hard to plan as I had feared.  The entire trip was built around playing in The Renaissance Cup, an annual gathering at a course designed by one of the greats, Tom Doak.  My partner and I had last played in a Renaissance Cup in 2018, and we both jumped at the chance to play in another one.  The trip ended up being full of surprises, both in Wisconsin and the Chicago area.

West Bend Country Club

Day one of the trip began with a flight to Milwaukee and a drive to Kenosha, Wisconsin.  Kenosha Country Club was designed by Donald Ross and was a great way to kick off the trip.  The routing, as always with Ross, is very strong, featuring a wonderful volcano-ish par three and a strong collection of par fours.
Kenosha Country Club, Par three 3rd hole

I stayed in the Kenosha area for my next round on day one.  The Club at Strawberry Creek was designed by Rick Jacobson, and is a links style course.  I particularly enjoyed the mix of short and long par fours.  Rick really understands flow in his designs, and they are always a ton of fun to play.
The Club at Strawberry Creek, Par three 4th hole

I drove to the Chicago area after my rounds in Kenosha.  I spent a couple days playing in the northern suburbs of Chicago.  My rounds began at sunrise on day two at Chick Evans Golf Course in Morton Grove.
Chick Evans Golf Course, Par three 10th hole

I made the very short drive to Wilmette for my next round on day two.  Westmoreland Country Club was originally designed over a hundred years ago by Willie Watson, and was re-designed by AW Tillinghast and William Langford a few years after it opened.  The course has been tweaked by Arthur Hills a few times.  He did a good job preserving some of the best qualities of Tillinghast designs.
Westmoreland Country Club, Par three 13th hole

I headed North to Winnetka for my next round.  The Donald Ross designed Indian Hill Club was my destination.  As usual, a strong routing from the master with an added interesting element of back to back par 3's at 9 and 10.
Indian Hill Country Club, Par three 13th hole

The Donald Ross theme continued for my fourth round on day two.  Northmoor Country Club has 27 holes, with 18 from Ross and nine from Larry Packard.  Nine of the Ross holes were closed for a restoration by Tyler Rae, so I played the other two nines.
Northmoor Country Club, Par three 8th hole

Believe it or not, after playing 63 holes of golf at four different courses, it was still only three o'clock.  I didn't want to waste the daylight, so I called a nearby course I had heard great things about. Lucky for me, I was able to play Briarwood Country Club, designed by Charles Alison.
Briarwood Country Club, Par four 14th hole

Day three of the trip began at sunrise again with a quick trip around the nine hole HeatherRidge Golf Course in Gurnee, Illinois.  The course opened in 1975 and genuinely surprised me for it's great collection of quality holes.
HeatherRidge Golf Course, Par four 1st hole

Libertyville, Illinois and The Merit Club was my next stop on day three.  Local architect Bob Lohmann designed the course at Merit in the early 90's, and it hosted the US Women's Open in 2000.  
The Merit Club, Par four 18th hole

I stopped by the par three course at Weber Park for my next round on day three. 
Weber Park Golf Course, Par three 4th hole

My final round on day three was another classic Donald Ross course, Evanston Golf Club.  The course continues to improve, as it will close next year for a restoration by the hot new Ross expert, Andrew Green.
Evanston Golf Club, Par four 5th hole

The fourth day of the trip took place north of Milwaukee.  West Bend Country Club, in the city by the same name, has a front nine designed by the golden age team of Langford and Moreau, with a back nine added by David Gill thirty years later.  Kye Goalby renovated the back nine in 2008 to look and feel more like the Langford/Moreau front nine.  He did a very good job and I thoroughly enjoyed this course.  This is easily the most underrated course in Wisconsin.  The elevation changes on both sides made for a thrilling round of golf!
West Bend Country Club, 11th green and 12th hole

I headed to Sheboygan next on day four for a round at the Jack Nicklaus designed Bull at Pinehurst Farms.  The course is brutally difficult, but also has some very good short par fours routed through the forest.
The Bull at Pinehurst Farms, Par four 7th hole

I stayed in Sheboygan for my last round of the day at Pine Hills Country Club.  The course moves up and down a large valley with the Pigeon River cutting through the property.  Pine Hills was one of the highlights of the trip, and combined with West Bend, would make for about as good a 36 hole day of golf as you can find anywhere in the Midwest!
Pine Hills Country Club, Par three 7th hole

The fifth day of the trip began about twenty miles west of Milwaukee in the town of Oconomowoc.  The Club at Lac La Belle was recently redesigned by Craig Haltom and utilized some additional property to create three new holes not part of the original design.  The new holes and the renovated holes fit together seamlessly, and the result is now one of the best courses in Wisconsin. 
The Club at Lac La Belle, Par three 11th hole

I headed about twenty miles south to Eagle, Wisconsin for my next round at Eagle Springs Resort.  The course here has one of the most photographed volcano holes in all of golf, the dramatic 2nd hole, pictured below.  The rest of the course is perhaps not as dramatic, but still very solid.  Eagle Springs was ranked by Golf Magazine as one of the 50 best 9 hole courses in the world.
Eagle Springs Resort, Par three 2nd hole, one of the best Volcano holes in existence!

Pace of play was very good during my morning rounds, so before my 2 pm tee time at a big course in Milwaukee, I had a delightful walk around the par three course at Hansen Park in Milwaukee.
Hansen Park Golf Course, Par three 4th hole

The final round of day five was a course I hadn't played in 17 years.  Blue Mound Golf & Country Club was designed by Seth Raynor.  I played the course on a trip to Whistling Straits in 2007, and was excited to return because the course had undergone some restoration work by Bruce Hepner and some of the Raynor templates were improved significantly.
Blue Mound Golf & Country Club, Par three 6th hole

I picked up my partner for our upcoming tournament at Sand Valley Resort and we made the drive west to Nekoosha, Wisconsin.  Before we tackled the courses at Sand Valley, we played a warm up round at nearby Lake Arrowhead Golf Resort.  We started out with the Lakes course, designed by Chicago area architect Dick Nugent.
Lake Arrowhead Golf Club(Lakes), Par four 15th hole

Since we were first out on the Lake course, we had some time to check out nine holes of the Pines course at Lake Arrowhead as well.  This course was also designed by Dick Nugent.
Lake Arrowhead Golf Club(Pines), Par four 6th hole

For our final round on day six we were fortunate to be a couple of the lucky few that got to play all 18 holes at the Tom Doak designed Sedge Valley course at Sand Valley.  The full 18 officially opens next Spring and a preview loop of ten holes had been available to resort guests for a few months.  The course was designed by Doak as a tribute to the great heathland courses in the United Kingdom, and features a unique par 68 routing.
Sedge Valley, Short Par four 6th hole

Our tournament, The Renaissance Cup, began on the morning of day seven at The Lido course at Sand Valley.  The Lido is very unique in golf architecture as it is the exact re-creation of the original Lido course that was built on Long Island, New York in the early 1900's.
The Lido, Par three 3rd hole, Eden

The Lido was originally designed by C.B. McDonald, and features all the wonderful templates that he and his associates Seth Raynor and Charles Banks incorporated into all of their designs. 
The Lido, Par four 5th hole, Cape

There is no denying the greatness of the new Lido course, and yet I found it very polarizing personally.  It has the widest gap I've ever experienced between best and favorite-as in, it's absolutely one of the best courses in the country, but I don't have it in my personal top 100 favorite courses.  The course is very difficult and the firmest and fastest course I've ever played, possibly too fast, which is something I've never said before.
The Lido, Par four 12th green, Punchbowl

The last day of the trip began with an early morning round at Lido.  On my third trip around the course I was finally able to exercise some demons on the two par five's on the front I had managed to screw up in my previous rounds.
The Lido, Par three 13th hole, Short

I headed northeast to Stevens Point for a wonderful spin around Stevens Point Country Club, which was wonderfully redesigned by Craig Haltom in 2016.  I had actually played nine at Lido with Craig the previous day, and got to tell him how much I enjoyed his work at another of his renovations, Lac La Belle.
Stevens Point, Par three 17th hole

The final round of the trip was fittingly the other Donald Ross course in Wisconsin, Oconomowoc Country Club.  I was surprised by the amount of elevation change at the course.  It moves masterfully through some hills and valleys and really builds to crescendo at the end.
Oconomowoc Country Club, Par three 6th hole

That's a wrap on my impromptu trip to Wisconsin.  Considering that I had no idea it was going to happen three months before it began, it turned out even better than I imagined.  Wisconsin is a state that is full of surprises and I can't wait to get back to experience more of it.



2023 Year in Review

I say this every year, but 2023 was a great year in golf for me.  It was my second full year as a resident of the Charleston area and I took...