Trip to the Carolinas (and Georgia), 2006

This is the 21st century version of a trip I took in 1970 when I got out of the Army and, having skied a lot in the Northeast, decided I wanted to see what a bunch of the big-time ski areas out west were like. So I got in my car and drove to 4 or 5 places in Colorado, and then Sun Valley, and Alta, and Squaw Valley, and Heavenly Valley, and Mammoth, and had a really fine time, going to all these places I'd read about.

Except I haven't been skiing for 20 years, so this time the trip was south for golf, a sport I played a lot as a kid, and even on the freshman golf team at Harvard (last one on the team), and then took up again maybe 8 years ago. As with the skiiing, this trip is to a bunch of places I've read about or heard about, except that with the prices some places charge, I passed on some of the really fancy places that are open to the public. There are still a whole lot of really fine courses that aren't so pricy, and the advantage of going in early December is that it is very much the low season, so prices are down and places aren't busy. Of course you take your chances with the weather. But you don't have to book everything well in advance; usually I try to plan a day or two ahead, keeping an eye on the long-range weather forecast.

So here are some details of the trip, sometimes many, many details, mainly for my own use -- as my memory fades, I can look back and remember some of the places I've been. In case there are any doubts, it has been really fun.

Tuesday 11/28 - Forest Greens, Triangle, VA

web page aerial photo

Headed off from Sunderland trying to get a ways south and also to maybe stop for 9 holes someplace, which took some figuring because of limited daylight and rush hour traffic considerations. I had planned to stop somewhere in the Delaware area, but a stop there would have put us in Baltimore and Washington at rush hour, so we kept going right through DC and had just enough time for 9 holes at Forest Green, a place Mike and I had played the same front nine a few years ago on the afternoon of an O' meet. I remember it being quite difficult then, and it still was now -- spraying the ball could mean kissing it goodbye.

Course was in pretty ragged condition, but it was really nice to get out of the car for a couple of hours. Shot 43 from the white tees (short at 3044 yards, but the 18 from those tees is rated at 70.0/135). Could have done a lot worse.

Headed off again as it got dark, but traffic was terrible, so called it quits in Fredricksburg.

Wednesday 11/29 - Cannon Ridge, Fredricksburg, VA

web page, Ron Whitten course review no aerial photo

I'd read about this course while researching possible places to stop, and it turned out that our motel was about 3 miles from the course. So the next morning I called them up and booked a time at 8:30. Gail drove me up there at about 8, fog was so thick you couldn't see more than about 100 yards. So I hit a few balls after a while and then headed out just before 9, fog better but not gone. Mainly I wanted to be the first person out, so I could get done at a decent hour. We were expected in Chapel Hill late afternoon, a visit with an aunt and uncle of Gail.

The course is wonderful, and by the time I was on the second hole the fog had burned off and you could really appreciate it. Beautiful, interesting, lots of variety, quite hilly, certainly not easy. Absolutely worth a detour, not that it much of a detour if you are on I-95. Gail joined me for the second nine, and she liked it a lot too.

Shot 83 from the grey tees (6071 yards, par 71, 70.2/136), many wonderful shots, a smaller number of quite bad ones:

#1. Good drive into the fog, caught the right rough, 8 iron a little fat, good chip, 2 putts from 8', bogey.
#2. Really good drive, wedge, fat again, chip to 1 foot, par.
#3. Great par 5. Really good drive over a ravine, 5-wood on just the right line (couldn't carry the bunker on the shorter line), wedge a touch fat, 2 putts from 60', par.
#4. Solid 5 iron to back of green, but pin was at the front. 2 putts from 65', the first one with a big bend, the second from 4'.
#5. Tough par 4. Hung the drive to the right, fairway trap. Tried to hit the next shot about 100 yards to lay up before trouble, only got about 50. Hung a 6-iron out to the right, decent pitch, 2 putts from 15', double bogey.
#6. Another tough par 4. Good drive, then 5-wood started right and went further right, never found it. Reloaded, decent 5-wood, pitch to green, 2 putts from 23', triple-bogey. So now I had pretty much offset the fine start of 3 pars in the first 4 holes. But I did find a Nike ball that I would play for the next 60 holes.
#7. Short par 3, 9-iron just on back fringe, chip to 5', made putt, par.
#8. Drive across ravine to diagonal fairway, bite off as much as you think you can handle. Hooked drive a little, more direct line to hole but down slope in rough. But caught a good lie, really solid 8 iron, landed 2' from pin but ran to back fringe. Chipped to 1', par.
#9. Perfect drive just left of the bunkers, but then waved at a 9-iron, left it short and right. Really good pitch, 2 putts from 7', bogey. 42 for the nine, par 35.

#10. Push drive to right, ended up on severe slope, all I could do to hit the next one 50 yards. Wedge to 16', made very slick downhill slider, par.
#11. Par 3 where left, right, and long were all trouble. 6-iron to front fringe, 50' putt to 2', but then missed it, bogey. That balanced the good luck on #10.
#12. Another neat par 5. Good drive, good 5-wood, between clubs, easy wedge to back fringe, really good chip across/down slope to 1 foot, par.
#13. Along narrow ridge, left was trouble, hung drive a little right into bunker. Really solid 5-wood from sand to hollow just below green, pitch to 8', made another downhill slider, par.
#14. Perfect drive just to edge of ravine, really waved at this 9-iron, way right into the tall grass, good pitch just to keep it on the far fringe, 3 putts from about 15', arggh..., double-bogey after a perfect drive.
#15. Long par 3, 5-wood just caught the right trap. Long bunker shot to 9', 2 putts, bogey.
#16. Another neat par 5, shaky play all the way. Drive ok, not too solid, decent 5-wood, pulled 7-iron, chip to 15', 2 putts, bogey.
#17. Perfect 5 iron, 2 putts from 15', par.
#18. Another neat par 5, made a mess of much of it. Hooked drive into the scrub grass. Terrible lie, chopped it forward about 75 yards. Really fine 5-wood from a bad/downhill lie, just clearing the cross bunkers, chunked pitch from about 50 yards, and then finished it off by holing an 80' putt from the front fringe. Par! 41 for the back nine, par 36.

10 pars, 5 bogeys, 2 doubles, 1 triple. Wild course, wild round.

Thursday 11/30 - UNC Ripley, Chapel Hill, NC

Web page aerial photo

The course is owned by the University of North Carolina but is open to the public. It was redesigned a few years ago by Tom Fazio. And since it is only a mile away from where Gail's aunt and uncle live, it seemed only proper to give it a try.

Played from the blue tees (6231 yards, par 72, 69.6/125). We were joined by two others, one a stay-at-home father with a 4-year-old kid, dad snuck out to play 3 mornings a week when the kid went to pre-school, the other a male traveling nurse on a long-term assignment in Raleigh. Neither one a typical person to meet on a golf course. Both were quite pleasant. The course was interesting, especially on the back nine. Big greens, quite fast but generally without severe slopes. Quite flat on the front nine, hillier on the back, also longer on the back. Everything was still quite wet from heavy rain a few days earlier, so there wasn't much roll.

#1. Hit it through the goal posts, said dad, pointing to two solitary pines framing the landing area. My drive split the uprights, the first of many good ones. Then a shaky 7-iron into a hollow left of the green, decent chip, 2 putts, bogey.
#2. Short par 4, good drive again, wedge to the green but about 50 feet from the pin, first putt lagged within inches, once of many times I had the speed perfect on long putts, par.
#3. Good drive, shaky second, good 8-iron from the rough, 2 putts from 40', par.
#4. A struggle to get a bogey. Lousy drive, not-so-good second, wedge from bad lie in rough just on the green, 2 putts from 40'.
#5. Yanked 7-iron left (conscious of the water on the right), poor chip, 2 putts from 20', bogey.
#6. Good drive, good 5-wood, nice smooth sand wedge just about perfect, putt in from 3', birdie.
#7. Good drive, 7-iron left again, pitch up hill to 8', sank putt, par.
#8. Solid 8-iron, 2 putts from 30'.
#9. Hung drive a little right, just stayed out of the trees, solid 5-wood left of trap left of green (conscious of water just right of green), left with nasty pitch off downhill slope, just barely kept it on far fringe, putt back a little strong, sank next one from 5'. Front nine in 39!

#10. Nasty par four, 370-yard dogleg right with the bend coming at about 175 yards, so either had to hit a pretty good fade with a driver, or hit a shorter club and have 200 left to an elevated green. Hit a really good drive down the right side with a little fade and still ended up in the left rough with a downhill lie. 5-iron to just short of green, ok chip, 2 putts from 12', bogey.
#11. Good drive, topped 5-wood, sand wedge to 30', 3 putts, double bogey. I had been thinking I needed 5 pars for a 40/79. Now I needed 6 with just 7 to play.
#12. Par 3, lousy 7-iron short and left, well below green, tried to bump first chip into slope, left it short, next chip to 5 feet, missed putt, double bogey. Good-bye to thoughts of 79.
#13. Par 5, hung drive to right, had a little tree trouble, 7 iron around big tree and over smaller one, just avoided traps, then 9-iron to green, sank putt from 27', birdie! Nice surprise.
#14. Weak 8-iron short and right, though this was the safe side (water left), good chip to 5', sank putt, par.
#15. Tough par four, 415 into a freshening wind. Good drive, good second, still 60 yards to the green, easy sand wedge, perfect, to 1', par. Now I just needed to par the last three.
#16. Another tough par four although with the wind, perfect drive, 4-iron up hill just short, chip to 6', sank putt, par.
#17. Par 5, 520, into the wind. Good drive, good 5-wood, 9-iron on the flag all the way, 12' short, missed putt, par. So now all I need was a par on 18....
#18. Par 4, 380, into the wind. Good drive, not so good 5-wood, about 30 yards short, but a good angle. Skulled pitch perfectly, rolled to 3', sank putt, par. Back nine in 40, last 6 holes one under, 79. What a nice surprise.

I would gladly play the course again, and probably will next time we visit the relatives. Though I sure won't expect to score so well.

Friday 12/1 - Chapel Ridge, Chapel Hill, NC

web page aerial photo

A storm was passing through, but it seemed possible to get in a round without being wet all the time. This is a new course, opened this year, pretty nice, though hard to be sure given the weather. It started to rain as I headed down the first hole, by #2 it was raining moderately, by #3 it was raining hard, and the wind was maybe 20-30 mph! Beat a retreat to the clubhouse, waited about 45 minutes, by which time the rain had ceased for good, but the wind stayed fierce all the rest of the way. And the course was just soaked (it had really poured), could have taken releif from casual water everywhere -- except on the greens, which drained really well.

Played from the white tees, third from longest, but still 6500-6600 yards (par 72, 71.1/123), which is too long for me, especially under the conditions. Shot 91, a lot of bogeys, just 3 pars, greens were fast and sloped, had trouble putting all day long. But the fairways and very short rough were wider than the course maps would indicate, all drives were nicely in play except for one in a trap. And most of the drives were very solid, the best part of my game.

Had a good time, definitely glad I went, but it was tough battling the wind. Especially the last three holes, all dead into the wind (and the sun), hit, couldn't see a thing, go look for it. At least I played the round with one ball -- in fact that ball lasted my from midway at Cannon Ridge all the way until #14 at Tobacco Road, about 60 holes. Sad to see it go splash....

Saturday 12/2 - Tobacco Road, Sanford, NC

web page, Ron Whitten course review, Golfclubatlas review, interview with Mike Strantz aerial photo

A wonderful course, probably the most fun I've ever had playing. Played shorter tees than usual, par 71 (68.6/131) and about 5800-5900 yards. Hit a lot of really good drives, only missed 3 fairways, 2 of them by a yard and one by 5 yards (though if you hit it the correct distance, the fairways were quite wide). A lot of thinking required, when to lay up, when to try to pull off a tough shot. Even with the yardage book as a guide, there were still some surprises at the greens, since the book didn't show the slopes and sometimes the slopes were severe. I suppose it would get easier if I played it again, but I doubt that I would play as well.

Shot 86. 9 pars, 7 bogies, 2 train-wreck quadruple bogies (4 shots to extract myself from the waste area below the 9th green, 2 balls in the water on the par 3 14th, the second of which would have been stiff if it had been a foot to the left, but it kicked off the fringe...). Made all the short putts in the first 6 holes, then nothing for the last 12. Played really, really good for 16 of the 18 holes.

Gail had a great time too.

Some notes (so I can remember...). There are photos of lots of the holes on the golfclubatlas site:

#1. Good drive over the dunes, laid up before the second set of dunes, 6-iron slightly pulled, ended up on the front fringe, just right, lucky. Chip and a 5-foot putt, par.
#2. Good drive, 8-iron to the middle of the green (pin in the front left corner), 2 putts, par.
#3. Weak 8-iron to trap on right. Had a bank/mound about 10 feet high between me and the pin. Hit shot perfect just to get it to stop on the far fringe, 2 putts, bogey.
#4. Good drive, would have been better to be a little more left, but hit it right where I was aiming. 200 yards to the green across about 180 yards of waste, but the last 30 yards was just sand, so I went for it, expecting to not make it. Just short, another 10-foot high bank, but this one less severe. Good sand shot to 12', missed putt, par.
#5. Drive a little farther right than desired, so had 140 to green off sidehill uphill lie. Pulled 7-iron, lucky it end up on fairway below green. Chipped up a little strong, made 17' putt, par (not deserved!).
#6. Between clubs, hit easy 9-iron but still a little strong. Big swooping 40' putt over a spur and then down to hole, to about 5', made putt, par.
#7. Good drive, dead center, all the way down to the last flat before the marsh. Pitching wedge to a devilish pin (right lobe of the green, bunker with a steep face in front, then shallow green pitched away, then bunker behind. Stetching to get the distance, got really lucky, landing just over the bunker on the front fringe, stopped just before the back bunker, couldn't do it again in 20 tries. 2 putts from 14', par.
#8. Last hole had the hardest pin, this one the easiest, down front, with some fairway in front of it. Wanted to be below the hole (green had a pretty good tilt), 9-iron landed about 5 yards short of green, plugged in a wet spot. Chip to 5 feet, missed uphill putt, bogey despite playing hole smart.
#9. Good drive. 5-wood uphill to a narrow green with trouble on both sides, left shot hanging to right, ended up about 40 yards below green in waste area. Four tries to get out, first trying to pick it clean with a lob wedge, caught just a little too much sand, second a normal explosion shot off hard sand, hit fat, third from some scruffy weeds, chuncked it, finally out on the fourth. Two putts, quadruple bogey, arggh... 41 for front nine (par 35).

10. So-so drive but in fairway. Really solid 5-wood to front/left of green, good chip to the back-right pin, 2 putts from 8 feet, bogey.
11. Great hole, a little like mirror image of #4, but huge, steep banks to deal with if you tried to cut the corner. Really solid drive, just a little too close to the waste area on the right, thought it had bounced in but it hung up in the rough, and with a good lie. About 160-170 uphill carry over the canyon, aimed a little left of green for better odds and hit it perfect. Chip to 8 feet, 2 putts, par.
12. One of the few holes where the fairway narrowed (to about 20 yards) at the distance I hit my driver, but hit the driver anyway, real good, a yard off the fairway (and a couple of yards from the waste bunker). Solid 8-iron, about 50 feet past pin, 3 putts, bogey.
13. Another wild par 5. Another really good drive, a touch to the right of where I was aiming, wasn't sure I had cleared the waste bunker but ball was in the middle of the fairway. Blind lay-up with a 7 iron, perfect, then sand wedge over the dune guarding the front of the green. 2 putts from 20 feet, par.
14. Train-wreck #2. Tee was up, pin way back, so had about 125 yards. 9-iron weak and right, splash. Reload. 8-iron solid but just a touch right (probably 15' right of pin), landed on fringe, kicked into water. Took a drop, chip, 2 putts from 6', quadruple bogey 7, arggh again....
15. Pulled drive into waste area on left. 140 to the very wide (60 yards?), very shallow green. I could see the far right corner of the green, the pin was in the left corner, but I didn't like my odds since there was nothing but junk in front and behind. Aimed for the right corner, perfect 7 iron off the hard sand, ended up on back fringe about 40 yards from pin, over a spur and down into a bowl. Good first putt to about 5', missed, bogey.
16. Short par 4, steep uphill, 6-iron to first patch of fairway, then 8-iron to green, but not quite enough to make it up steep slope to the back ledge where the pin was, so it rolled back to front of green. 3 putts from about 60 feet, bogey.
17. Very short par 3, easy pin. Wedge to 20', 2 putts, par.
18. Left drive hanging to the right, just caught the edge of the fairway. About 170 yards to green, just a narrow slot between the dunes, sidehill/downhill lie, just nailed a 5-iron, right at the flag, but it landed in a wet spot about 5 yards short and stopped dead. Chipped to 5 feet, one more missed putt, bogey. 45 for the nine (par 36), 86 overall, could have been better, or much, much worse. Couldn't have been much more enjoyable.

Sunday 12/3 - Legacy, Aberdeen, NC

web page aerial photo

This was a suggestion of Mike Fritz. Actually, there were two other courses in the Pinehurst area that I would have preferred to play (The Pit and Tot Hill Farm), but I also wanted to play one normal Pinehurst area course and figured this made more sense than forking out a lot more money for one of the courses at the Pinehurst or Pine Needles/Mid Pines resorts.

Enjoyed the round, though it was nothing like yesterday for excitement. A nice course, very pretty, but I'm not sure why it gets 4.5 stars from Golf Digest (4 would have been fine). Most holes it didn't seem to matter much where you put your drive (other than longer being better than shorter), as long as it wasn't in the pines - not many fairway bunkers, and most greens were open in the front, Not much bunkering around the greens either, but a lot of rolls and dips, so that usally there were good places and not so good places to miss. The problem, of course, was not really finding that out until I was already up at the green. This is the usual problem of playing a course the first time, especially when the holes are laid out so you can't spy on upcoming holes before you get to them, but a better yardage book would have helped (no advice, no slopes around the greens). My eyes just aren't good enough to pick out all the slopes from 150 yards away.

Shot 84 from the blue tees (6500 yards, 71.4/127). Weather was on the cool side, mid to upper 40s, sunny to start, clouding over and a couple sprinkles by the end. Again, a little bit long for me, but then I wasn't driving near as well as the last few days, hit in the pines 3 or 4 times and had tree trouble after a couple other drives that didn't quite make the pine needles. Plus topped one (but it was straight!). Hit some good irons, though on a few holes I was trying to hit the green from much farther away then I wanted after a shaky drive. The greens gave me a problem all day, though I make 3 putts (a couple in the 10 to 15' range, and one of about 45'!). Main problem was that I always seemed to be pitching over little spurs and then downhill to the pin and/or having downhill putts. Greens were fast, and I always felt like I was putting very defensively. But still very pleased with the score, 7 pars, 1 double, 10 bogeys, no penaly strokes. But too much up close and personal with the pines!

Gail played nine (the back nine, they were starting us on 10), then went to the gym to work out.

Heading south afterwards, supposed to be 40s here the next few days, upper 50s and sunny in Charlston/Savannah area. Dinner at Redbone Alley in Florence, SC, better than any chain restaurant out at the interstate.

Monday 12/4 - Crescent Pointe, Bluffton, SC

web page aerial photo

On the mainland just before the bridge to Hilton Head. Played after driving down from Florence in the morning. Beautiful sunny day after the rain cleared out overnight.

Midway through the first nine, I was pretty sure this report was going to be very brief, something like "Bad day," or as Gail suggested, "Didn't have my A game." But I should write a little more anyway.

Course was ok, seemed a bit narrow in places, certainly when compared to the Legacy -- if you were much off line, you were either wet or lost, as opposed to just on the pine straw, Played from the white tees since the par 3s seemed too long from the blue tees, par was 71, 6000 yards (69.5/126). Sure seemed harder. But my main complaint was that they were "all out" of yardage books, so I felt like I was playing a bit blind. Though I didn't need a yardage book to telll me not to hit it 40 yards off line into a lake, not once, not twice, but three times....

So anyway, I started off with two 3-putt bogeys and then things went downhill. Double at the 3rd, a modest par 5, with a couple of botched shots and 3 more putts after a perfect drive. Triple at the 4th with a 7-iron way off line into the water. Double on the par 3 5th, and it could have been a lot worse -- pulled a 7-iron onto the cart path up close to a hedge, no place to take a drop except in the hedge, not much backswing either, jabbed at the ball, skulled it, it hit the curb on the cart path and went back through the hedge and down a bank into a low area, hit a really good lob wedge diagonally back in the direction of the tee (only way I had a backswing), then chipped up and made a 4-footer for 5. A really good double-bogey.

I should say that after each hole I announced to Gail something like, "Ok, new hole coming, time for a rally...."

Not done yet, 6th was a par 5, water all down the right side with the green across the water, good drive, then 5-wood into the water, then 6-iron into the water, though making progress up the hole each time,finally a wedge to the green and 2 putts for a triple. So I was 12 over par for 6 holes. And the possibilities for a really bad round were getting better and better. So I revised my goals, have to get a least one par. Four holes and four bogeys later that was still my goal, though it was looking good on #11, a par 5, as I hit a good drive, good 5-wood, and good sand wedge to 25', but then took three putts...

"Next hole," I said to Gail, "and when I get one, the dam will break and I'll get lots," always have to think positively.

Good drive on the 12, another crappy 6-iron short/right, but a good pitch over a bunker to a tight pin and a putt from 9' and par! Which wasn't followed by 6 more as I hoped, but at least was followed by 4 more, including a very sweet regulation 4 on the not easy 18th. So a 40 on the back nine to go with a 50 on the front nine and a fair amount of satisfaction.

Wildlife sightings -- lots of birds (herons, egrets, ibis, various ducks, turtles, but no alligators, yet.

Tuesday 12/5 - Oyster Reef, Hilton Head, SC

web site aerial photo

One of the less expensive courses on the island, designed by Rees Jones. Very pretty, lots of bids, turtles, and even 1 alligator, but a litt bit boring, many of the holes much the same -- doglegs, traps at the corner too much to carry, traps around the slightly elevated green otherwise virtually flat, occasional ponds on one side or the other.

Played from the blue tees (6440, par 72, 72.6/124), was too long for me. Driving very well most of the time but second shots, mostly medium irons to 5-woods, were very shaky. Also bad day out of the traps, sand was very fine and I never felt comfortable, in greenside traps 3 times and took 3, 4, and 4 shots to get down. Front side in 48 with one ball (6-iron on par 3) out of bounds.

Back side was good and bad, 6 pars but also a double and two triples. But at least the last hole was a par, on a 420-yard par 4, 2 shots to just short of the green, a nice chip and a 4' putt. Still only got me a 44/92. Too many bad holes (also a double and a quadruple on the front side). But fun to be driving so well. And another day of perfect weather (which has been why we've been playing every day).

Almosr forgot a highlight -- drive on the 14th, a 360-yard par 4, hit a sprinkler head on the fly, very big bounce, couldn't find it at first, finally spotted it about 90 yards from the green. Would be nice to be able to hit the ball 270 (or 260 or 250 or 240 or 230 or 220....). And I did get a regulation 4.

Wednesday 12/6 - Eagle's Pointe, Bluffton, SC

web site aerial photo

Wasn't going to play, but it was upper 60s and sunny and our last day in the area. Tried another course off the island. White tees this time (par 71, 35/36, 6026, 69.5/123).

Up and down day, or should I say, down and up. First nine was mostly down, despite starting with a birdie on #1, 8-iron to 10'. Very slow play starting at the third, waiting on every shot. And the shots were't so good, especially my drives, right, left, right, left, right, left, left, plus a couple balls in the water on second shots, lucky to get a 46. And we were pretty fed up with the waiting. So we thought maybe it was just the couple of groups in front of us, so we passed them, skipping the holes, but the back nine was full up, so we drove along through 15 and then cut back to the clubhouse. Gail retired to read and I headed out to the front nine to play some more. Still a couple of groups there, but I played the holes out of order and got around pretty quickly, just over an hour, 43 this time, still quite shaky but not as bad. Just 4 pm, might as well play some of the back nine. Really hustling, and starting to play better --

#10. Drive, good 5-wood, but feeble 9-iron to right trap, sand shot to 1', par.
#11, 9-iron to 20', 2 putts, par.
#12. Real good drive, 8-iron to 30', 3 putts, bogey.
#13. Good drive, 9-iron to 50', 3 putts, bogey.
#14. Going good, par-5 coming, oops, drop-kicked drive, 5-wood sharp right into water, 7-iron over trees to 30 yards short of green, pitch, 2 putts from 20', double bogey on an easy hole....
#15. 6-iron from 150 to 45', first putt stopped on the edge, par.
#16. Long par 4, 410 yards, drive to left rough, sidehill lie, smoked a 5-wood, dead straight to middle of green from 210, 2 putts from 30', par.
#17. Real good drive, 8-iron to 30', sank putt, birdie.
#18. Needed par for 39, but wasn't to be. Hooked drive into rough, downhill/sidehill lie on mound, 6-iron short right of green, good pitch but 15' short, just missed putt, bogey.

40, and 83 for the last 18. Played the back nine in just under an hour, the last 18 in 2 hours. And in a much better mood than after the first 9.

Packed up and headed west into Georgia, away from the coast.

Thursday 12/7 - Southern Hills, Hawkinsville, GA

web site aerial photo

Drove over to central Georgia to find a few hills, also a very nice course, which was almost empty, maybe 10 cars in the parking lot.

Blue tees (6282, 70.6/125, par 72), longer on the front 9, shorter/trickier on the back. Weather was a little cooler, mid-50s, and quite windy. Course was very interesting, lots of variety, some good rolls/slopes on the greens. A lot of thinking about how you wanted to try and play each hole.

Played the front nine with a distinct lack of talent, first par not until the 8th, a par 5 (508 yards) with the wind, up a little then down to the green, I was about 30 yards short in 2, but with a devilish chip to a green sloping away, just trying to keep the ball on the green. Hit the chip just right, it still trickled to the fringe, but two putts from there. Which was a lot better then, say, the 6th, a par 4 (332), downhill, crosswind, 180 to the creek, 200 to carry, narrow fairway, hit the driver just for the hell of it, good drive over the creek, 100 yards to the hole, chunked the wedge, chunked the next chip, hit the next chip to about 8' and made the putt for what the card shows as a bogey, but it sure had me cussing for a couple of minutes. 45 for the nine.

Back nine, like some other days, was better, though not without meltdowns.

#10. Short par 4 (330), tailwind, very narrow target area, about a 190 carry over pond to a fairway sloping sharply down to the right to the pond. So anything center/right of fairway would probably get wet. And then there was a bunker on the left and then trees, and, oh yeah, the hole then doglegged left. So I aimed for the trap, hit it (the ball) and it (the trap) both dead center, very pleased! 9-iron from the trap on the front corner of the green, 2 putts from 45', par.
#11. Minor meltdown. Tough par 3, 180, pin tucked behind bunker on left, water just left of it. Played a decent iron to the right front fringe, skulled chip but got lucky, 9' from hole, putt was more downhill than I realized, missed, missed from 7' coming back, double bogey, arggh....
#12. Par 5 (502), Good drive, very good 5-wood cutting the corner, landed on cart path, big bounce, ended up 10 yards short of green, chip not quite what I wanted, to 10' but sank putt, birdie.
#13. Par 4 (288). 90-degree dogleg right at about 200 yards, green hogbacked and sloping away. Good drive, good wedge finally stopped on back fringe, 2 putts from 25', par.
#14. Par 5 (469), uphill, dogleg left at about 200 with fairway for next 200 yards sloping sharply left to right. Cut corner too close, up on hillside, sloping lie with ball well below my feet, a bit of tree trouble, hooked a 7-iron just as intended to keep it in fairway, 8-iron a little weak, 2 putts from 80' (really), par.
#15. Par 4 (388), downhill, good drive, 9 iron to front pin, narrow target, just a hair left but easy chip from a couple yards off the green, scuffed it, 2 putts from 12', bogey, missed opportunity....
#16. Meltdown #2. Par 4, 335, uphill into wind, ok drive, 6 iron need to be either a yard farther, or a yard to the right. Flew sand shot over green and down hill, flubbed pitch, poor chip, 2 putts from 15', triple, arggh....
#17. Par 3, 148, across water, 7 iron, solid, 2 putts from 40', par.
#18. Par 4, 357, uphill, crosswind, trouble on both sides, good drive, very solid 7-iron, a very fast sidehill/downhill putt from 20' to within a few inches, par and a nice way to finish. 41 for the nine and 86 for the 18, ok.

Drove to Cordele afterwards and the Georgia Veterans State Park, staying the night at the Lake Blackshear Resort ($69 special!), very nice, good food too.

Friday 12/8 - Georgia Veterans SP, Cordele, GA

web site aerial photo

Cold night, cold morning, waiting until about 11 to head out, and Gail passed. Probabaly about 36 when I started, warming up to the mid 40s, a little breezy, but the bright sunshine made it ok. I had the course all to myself, and a brisk walking pace kept me warm. And cheapest golf so far, senior rate walking was $19.

Nice course, not hilly but not flat either, holes mostly run back and forth but done in a way that you don't feel bored. No severe slopes on the greens, but lots of mounds and hollows around them.

Played white tees, 5978, par 72 (68.5/118), the blues were 6483 and that seem awful long, especially in the cold air. This was actually just right. I was thinking about course length at some point. If the pros play at about 7200, and they hit drives about 90 yards farther than me on 14 holes, that converts to me playing 5940, but then they also hit all their irons a lot longer too, so maybe I should really be playing at about 5500 to have something similar. So I shouldn't feel guilty about playing from shorter tees. On the other hand, sometimes it's nice to see more of the golf course.

Played pretty well from tee to green (or to the vicinity of the greens), but short game was not good. 9 greens in regulation, shot 83 (43-40), no lost balls, just a lot of poor chip/pitch shots and not putting well. The three double bogeys were: took 4 to get down from 60 yards short of the green (chunked pitch, poor chip); took 5 to get down from bunker 60 yards short of green (chunked sand shot into next bunker, hit that one fat too, then poor chip); and 4 to get down from fairway 15 yards from green (poor pitch, putt from fringe to 3', missed). Felt like I was hitting the long shots well enough to break 80. But as is usually true, if one part of the game is working, almost surely another part won't be.

One birdie, #9, 390 par 4, 3 excellent shots, drive, 5-iron, 12' putt. Actually had 3 birdie putts shorter than that, couldn't convert.

Heading back over towards the coast tomorrow.

Saturday 12/9 - The Lakes at Laura Walker State Park, Waycross, GA

web site aerial photo

Still cold, so we headed towards the coast on a southerly route. By the time we started to play it was pleasantly in the 50s.

I really liked the course though I played pretty badly. The land was flat, but they had managed to work in some ups and downs to give it some character. And there was a real variety in the holes. I kept thinking to myself, I'm playing terrible, messing up lots of holes, but the course is neat. Only drawbacks were that the greens were quite slow and the bunkers had rather thin layer of fine sand over a hard base. I never did get a feel for either, and I had plenty of chances (39 putts, 7 shots from grrenside bunkers taking 3, 2, and 2 to get out).

Also real nice driving range, very friendly people.

Among the bad shots:

-- Two lost balls off the tee, both to the right, plus one in the trees to the left, had to play out sideways. And the fairways were generous!
-- An 8 on a par four after a good drive and a 5-iron into the left front bunker.
-- The rough was a little thicker here. Had one lie where the ball was sitting right on top. Third shot on a par-5, just the right distance for my lob wedge. Nice swing, right under the ball, it moved about 6".

Played from the white tees, should have been on the easy side, 6069, par 72, 68.9/119, shot 45/45 for a 92. Quite frustrating.

Note: I've also gotten in the habit of checking the aerial photos ( of places I'm thinking of playing. Gives a sense of what it is like and what the routing is, also the presence of housing. Aerial photo. (Seems like this link works fine, I'll go back and add others.)

Sunday 12/10 - Jekyll Island, Indian Mound course, Jekyll Island, GA

web site, aerial photo

Played a little earlier today, about 9:40, but it was warmer (60s in the early afternoon) so that was fine. Again, very few people. Played the Indian Mound course, one of three there and supposedly the medium one in terms of difficulty. After yesterday I wasn't eager to opt for the hardest! A nice course, though not as inventive as yesterday's. Greens a little slow again, rough not bad except if you got close enough to the tree lines the grass got very patchy and you were pretty much playing off bare ground. Made it tough if you were up in the vicinity of the green and there was a bunker between you and the green.

Played better. Not great, but far fewer really botched shots. Actually one drawback for the course was that I seemed to be playing shots to the green from a distance of 150-160 a whole lot of times, would have preferred more variety. Part of that may have been the wind, there was a steady breeze, and it seemed like 2 or 3 of the shorter par 4s were into the wind, while the longer ones were with it. I seemed to always be hitting 5-6-7 irons, sometimes good, sometimes not. Just 5 greens in regulation, but several others very close. Ended up with 42/41 for an 83. Played from the white tees, 6221, par 72, 70.2/128.

One thing we noticed was that the bermuda grass here tended to be quite grabby around the green.Maybe it was just a little less dormant than other places we've played. Never seemed to know how the ball would bounce on chip shots (and I play a lot of bump and runs). Of course, even when I could fly the ball onto the putting surface I was still having trouble getting the distance right, so it's clear where the problem lies. Had about 3 times when I was just off the green, an easy uphill chip, and didn't get the ball within 10'.

Sunday 12/10 - Jekyll Island, Great Dunes course, Jekyll Island, GA

web site, aerial photo

Finished at Indian Mound in a little over three and a half hours, so we went a mile away to check out the original 9-hole course designed by Walter Travis. Totally different. Three holes along the dunes, then a short trip inland and back, another hole and a half in the dunes, and then 3 holes back flat. Very small greens, my first reaction was, well, I don't have to worry about 3-putting, but actually the greens had some real slopes on them and if you were above the hole it could be a problem, even if these greens were also a little slow. I still did 3-putt once, from 18', pretty flat putt too. Arggh....

But as far as the small greens, on one par three I was just over the green on my tee shot, chipped back too long, it just stayed on the green, and I had about 16-18' left. Green was probabaly about 30' across.

Shot 45 (par 36, 2928, 68.6/117 for 18), started with 2 double-bogeys, end with 2 pars. Not an easy course, though playing it a couple of times would help. Also, much more out in the open, stiff breeze from the north.

Glad we payed it, a lot of fun.

Monday 12/11 - True Blue, Pawleys Island, SC

web site

A bit of a drive up to the Myrtle Beach area to play a course I had been looking forward to since playing Tobacco Road, another design by Mike Strantz. When I called up to get a tee time I asked if it was like Tobacco Road, since I had really enjoyed it there, and the response was that they were somewhat similar but the TR was like True Blue on steroids. Which turned out to be pretty much true. Ture Blue is a great course and really fun, just not quite as extreme as TR, mainly because it is built on flat land. There are still a lot of ups and downs here, just not to the extent at TR. Regardless, the course did not disappoint. And the conditioning was excellent, fast smooth greens, which were also less severe for the most part than TR (where I think the greens were cut a little slower to make them more playable).

Hit a few balls on the practice range, and we noticed that there were a couple of guys that were having trouble getting the ball airborne. I sure hope things got better for them.

Played from the white tees, 6375 on the card though tees were set at about 6100, par 72 (70.1/127 at 6375).

aeirial photo 1-4

#1. Most of the holes have pretty wide fairways, so you ought to be able to hit them, but I started out hitting my driver quite badly (despite fine shots on the range). Hooked drive, just hung up in the rough on the edge of the waste area, ball was at about waist height. Actually hit a good choked-up 5-wood baseball style, then a 6-iron pretty good, just leaked a little left, an unfavorable bounce and down into the left trap, a good 10' below the green. A good shot out and two putts for a hard-earned bogey.
#2. Short par 4, probably should have hit my 5-wood, left driver out to the right, ended up right behind a bush, nowhere to go but sideways/backwards. Flubbed the first one, next one out in the fairway, good wedge to 15 ', 2 putts, double-bogey, not the start I was hoping for....
#3. Nasty looking par 3, pin right in the center, could miss short right or long left but not long right or short left. 7-iron right at the flag all the way, sank 5' putt, birdie!
#4. Par 5 around the lake. Another drive to the right in the pine trees. Just barely room for a swing, but a real good shot along the fairway, though not getting all that much closer to the hole, then another 5-wood, not so good, but missed it just in the right place, a little short, a little right, ended up between the traps about 20 yards short of the green. Front of the green had a big right-to-left slope, hit a really good chip to 12', 2 putts, bogey, feeling lucky it wasn't worse.

aerial photo 5-7

#5. Hung another drive to the right, this once stayed in the fairway but 210 from the green. Good 5-wood about 20 yards short of green (and 50 yards short of pin), real good chip to 3', 2 putts, bogey, arggh....
#6. Good drive finally, up the right center. The hole has two greens, they were playing the left one today. 9-iron ok but short, 2 putts from 35' (second one in from 7', needed that!), par. Note that this was one of quite a few holes where the tees were up some, so the hole was maybe 350 instead of 380.
#7. Pin way up front, maybe 120, real tentative 9-iron short left (trouble was right), but good chip to 2', sank putt, par.

aerial photo 8-9

#8. Real good drive, cut the dogleg quite substantially hoping I had enough carry (needed about 190), ended up 80 yards from green, sand wedge to back pin to 5', sank putt, birdie #2!
#9. Par 5, really solid drive, 5-iron lay-up over the wtlands but short of the 2 bunkers, sand wedge from 70 yards to 2', sank putt, birdie #3! 39 for the front nine (par 37)!

aerial photo 10-13 (and 14 just to the south)

#10. Crushed drive again, just left of the waste bunker, perfect. Then things fell apart. Hit 5-wood only so-so, main problem was didn't aim far enoung left, so it caught the last of the cross bunkers. Left with 170 to green over a creek, got smart, hit it about 90 yards to sand wedge distance. Pulled sand wedge a little, must have shut the face too, it flew the left side of the green. So now I'm 4 in the back left bunker, probably a 12-15' face to the bunker, then downhill to the pin, then another bunker on the front side of the green. Aimed a little right of the pin where there was more of a rise just before falling off into the front bunker, hit shot perfect, over the face, down the slope up the little rise, stopped just in time, did a u-turn and rolled back on the green, or so Gail tells me as I could see none of it. 2 putts from 15', feeling lucky to get a double bogey, but after such a good drive, arggh....
#11. Par three to a very front pin, maybe 135, hit 7-iron, pulled, in some bushes about 50' left of pin. Just enough room to get a swing, a narrow shallow bunker between me and the green, very lucky to have a spot with no lip just off my line, putted through the pine needles and the sand and up to the fringe, 2 putts from 20', bogey, lucky.
#12. Hung drive to right, just caught waste bunker, just about against the lip. Wedged out, hit it a little fat, still had 130 to green, 8 iron to 50', 2 putts, lucky to get bogey. But back nine was not going well.
#13. Good drive down the left center, solid 5-wood from 180, 2 putts from 25', par. That's better.
#14. Par three, pin in right front lobe, tee way over on the left, about 125. 9-iron right over the pin, 2 putts from 25', par.

aerial photo 15 and 18

#15. Par 5, tee up so playing maybe 525. Perfect drive, real good 5-wood, pitching wedge from 105 from a downhill lie, got the distance right but went right, just caught green. Good putt from 40' but missed from 2', bogey, arggh.... played hole so well, and was thinking, 3 more pars for 79 and this needed to be one of them since last three holes looked tough.

aerial photo 16 and 17

#16. Par 3 from about 150, water short and right, bunkers left. Hit 6-iron real thin/weak but it managed to find the little strip of fairway about 20 yards short/left of green. Good chip to 8', sank putt, par.
#17. Good drive dead center, but still had 180 to green over water, all carry. Played a little left to be safe, hit shot thin, just carried the water, ended up in fairway about 20 yards from green. Chip to 12', 2 putts. OK, tough hole, just trying to finish without any disasters.
#18. Tee was up so hole was maybe 350. Good drive, 7-iron from 140, hung out to right into bunker. Pin was way back left, maybe 20' from water, I had about 40 yards to the pin, hit it as aggressively as I dared, just right, 20' short, 2 putts, bogey. 42 for the back nine (par 35), and 81. Excellent.

Gail enjoyed it a lot too. She had her adventures in the bunkers too -- highlights included 3 bunker shots from about 40-50 yards hit stiff (less than a yard, one to about 6" in view of a maintenance guy who gave her a round of applause), and two putts drained from about 40'. I think she had 103.

Very fun day. Always had be be thinking about what shots to hit, when to be agressive, when to play safe. Would go back anytime. Also to its sister course just across the road, Caledonia Golf and Fish Club, also by Strantz, also supposed to be wonderful.

Tuesday, 12/12 - The Legends, Moorland course, Myrtle Beach, SC

web site aerial photo

Another beautiful day, and on the schedule for today was a visit to the Legends complex, 54 holes, where we were scheduled to play the Moorland course, designed by Pete Dye, with many of the same features you see on TV at Sawgrass for the Players Championship -- deep bunkers, steep slopes around greens, severe undulations, long lateral waste bukers, lots of water. Nothing as hard as Sawgrass I'm sure, but some holes were a lot of fun, especially, it seemed, the shorter par 4s and par 5s, Much better than the several long par 4s (400-425 from the middle tees), which were ok, but not nearly as wild as the shorter ones.

Played from the green tees (middle of 3 sets of tees), 6143, par 72 (69.6/126), shot 84 (42/42), hit what seemed like a lot of good shots, also what seemed like a lot of putts!

A few holes --

#1. Short par 4, drive a little right but solid, wedge landed a couple yards past the pin, rolled to the back fringe, turned out to be the easiest putt on the green, 30' up a gentle slope. par.
#2. Par 5, drive right into waste bunker, good 5-wood out of the sand, lousy 9-iron into bunker just short, out, 2 putts from 18', bogey.
#3. Good drive, 5-iron to front fringe (very small gap between water on left and trap on right, chip to 2', missed putt, bogey, arggh....
#4. Long par 4, not a good drive to left rough, good 5-wood, 50-yard chip looked just about right, landed on front fringe and stopped dead. 3 putts from 50', double bogey.
#5. Par 3 150, very elevated and large sloping green, missed to left but still in short grass, tight lie, 15' high steep slope then green running away. Putted up slope pretty good, ran putt from 20' about 7' past, made it coming back, bogey.
#6. Par 5, 475, got very narrow as you got closer to the green, good drive, lousy 5 wood into waste bunker to left, lucky it didn't go in water, good 9-iron from sand, 2 putts from 25', par.
#7. Par 3, 190, good 5-wood to right fringe, putt from 60' went 6' by, made it, par.
#8. Short par 4, about 300, pulled drive into pot bunker, severe uphill lie, hit 9-iron to be sure of clearing lip, hit partway up slope to very elevated green, rolled back, pitch to 20', ran putt 7' past, sank it, lucky bogey on a short hole.
#9. 420 par 4, real good drive, real good 5-wood to front fringe, chip to 1', par.

#10. 345 par 4, real good drive, front pin right behind severe slope, bunkers alll over, 9-iron 15' past pin, 2 putts, par.
#11. Short par 5, 450, very elevated and long/narrow green, real good drive, laid up with 7-iron leaving 75 yards, normal sand wedge distance, caught sand wedge flush, ran to very back of green, 2 puts from 60', par.
#12. 420 par 4 to elevated green, real good drive, real good 5-wood about 15 yards short, not bad chip to back pin, 2 putts from 15', bogey.
#13. 135 par 3, back pin, tailwind, hit 9-iron flush, landed a yard from pin, rolled to back fringe, 2 putts from 30', par.
#14. Short par 4, 315, hooked drive into big open area of rough with only one tree, right behind it, no shot. Hit low hooking 3-iron that caught lowest branch, rolled forward to area of mounds. Nice uphill lie, 75 yards, pin on right side, bunker all on right side, big hollow in left side of green. Sand wedge landed about 10' left of pin, almost stopped, slowly trickled down to left, 2 putts from 35', bogey.
#15. Tough par 5, 540. Real good drive, just over cross bunkers, but then hooked 5-wood shot across marsh to left fairway (trying to get closer for 3rd shot). Found ball under bush, playable, chipped out, 9-iron pulled just slightly to left fringe, 3 putts from 30' (missed from 3'), double bogey.
#16. Great short par 4, tee up a little, about 225 to very elevated green surrounded by various bunkers/hollows/steep slopes, with front pin on a very narrow part of green. A little fairway to the right, a little more up to about 170 from tee. Hit driver, aiming maybe 10 yards to right of pin at a big pit bunker, hit really good, just carried over bunker, but needed to be about 5 yards to the left. Ended up down in hollow 15-20' below green, tight flat lie in short grass looking at a very steep rough-covered slope, then a narrow bit of green, then trouble on the other side. Aimed right a bit where slope was a little less severe, trying to bump and run, took a good swing, looked up, topped it, ball bounced up right to the top then ran out of gas, but only came back a couple of feet before getting caught up in the rough. Chip from there was still dicey, trickled about 6' past pin, made it, hard-earned par! Very cool hole, especially with that pin (green was much wider in back, but still quite sloping).
#17. Par 3 135, solid 8-iron, 2 putts from 14', par.
#18. Par 4 about 390, lake all down the left side, gradual dogleg left. Real good drive, 5-iron from 170 just a touch thin, just caught right front bunker, chunked first sand shot, second one to 6' but missed. Double bogey, too bad. But still a whole lot of fun.

Tuesday, 12/12 - The Legends, Parkland course, Myrtle Beach, SC

web site

So Gail went off to the outlet complex a couple of miles away and I headed out to play some more. I wanted to play the Heathland course, designed by Tom Doak, but it was busy, so I headed off on the Parkland course to see how many holes I could get in. A nice course, less adventurous than Moorland and so less fun, but still ok. Played pretty well but didn't score well thanks to 2 balls OB (both drives!) and one 5-wood in the water, had 47, then played 5 holes on the back nine (3 pars, 2 bogeys) before running into heavy traffic, cut over and played the last 3 holes on the front nine again, 3 regulation pars, all with birdie putts about 10', except on 7 and 9 I had hit my first drive in the water, so it was really double, par, double. I was rushing.... Finished just as the sun was disappearing below the horizon.

Wednesday, 12/13 - Glen Dornoch, Little River, SC

web site aerial photo course review

Moved a little farther north, just a couple of miles from the North Carolina state line, for a course by Clive Johnson set in flat to gently sloping terrain, lots of trees, and no houses. Quite beautiful especially holes 8, 9, 16, 17, and 18, which came out along the Intercoastal Waterway, which on an overcast mid-December day had a lot more bird traffic than boat traffic. Rained a couple of times, but just for a little while.

It's a little bit hard to give a fair judgement of the course because my frustration level was a little on the high side -- didn't play really bad, but just enough bad shots, especially off the tee 4 times. Two of them were on par 5s, usually my favorite holes, so when you are in the trees off the tee and struggling to get a 7, the hole isn't quite so much fun. Plus a couple of times just a case of rub of the green -- really solid drive on #1 but blocked by a single tree, also right behind a tree on #15. But all that balanced out when a 35' putt hit hard enough to go at least 45' hit the back of the cup on 17, popped up in the air, and dropped in for a 2! The euphoria from that lasted at least a couple of minutes until I snap hooked my drive on 18 into the marsh. Reloaded and smoked the next one over the same marsh on the short route to the green, then a full sand wedge to 3' and sank the putt for a bogey. Sort of symbolic of the round, good hole followed by bad hole, by good, by bad. Ended up with 43-43=86, 8 pars and 4 double-bogeys. Only putt made over 4' was the one on 17. Played from white tees, par 72, 6035 (70.2/127).

But the course was pretty nice. Not really any boring holes and a lot of fine ones, just not with high drama (except maybe for 16 through 18). A little bit harder for me to play with woods on both sides of many holes, makes me tighten up a bit. There was one hole that was a little more open, just scattered trees on both sides but still playable if you sprayed, and maybe a 180 carry to the fairway. We were being waved on by a group of 4, normally a bit more pressure, but I felt totally relaxed because of the extra effective width and hit my best drive of the day. Funny how those things work.

I should point out that Gail also played #17 in just 2 shots, a solidly hit iron pulled a little left of the green, and a solidly hit chip that hit the pin very solidly and dove in. I'm pretty sure we've never double-birdied before.

Thursday, 12/14 - River's Edge, Shallotte, NC

web site

And a little further up the coast, just into North Carolina, to a course designed by Arnie's crew, and quite a fine one, despite being part of an upscale real estate development (as so many courses seem to be).

Gail took the day off, so I headed over to the course on the early side, managed to be the first one off on the back nine, the only problem being that there was still some lingering fog for 2 or 3 holes. And for whatever reason, it took a while for me to start hitting more than every other shot anything close to what was desired. Second nine went better, for a while.

A few of the ups and downs:

#10. Good drive, right down the middle, skulled 8-iron, ok chip to 8', missed putt, bogey.
#11. Drive deep in the woods to right, but woods were open pine, so found ball. Chipped out sideways, 5-wood into trees to right, chipped out sideways, wedge to green, 3 putts from 40', triple-bogey, what a start....
#12. 7-iron right over the pin bounced into back trap (greens were terrific for putting, but a little hard, even wedges seemed to run out a bit more than wanted), nice downhill sand shot , sank 20' putt, par.
#13. Good drive, good 9-iron hit a couple of yards short of green (pin was up front) and stopped dead, poor chip, 2 putts from 10', bogey.
#14. Hooked drive into trees, low 3 iron to right of green, good pitch rolled just right, to 1 foot, par.
#15. 190 par 3 across marsh, 5-wood high and right, lucky to find it and be able to play it. Pitch over trap but stopped on fringe, left putt 8' short but then made it, bogey.
#16. Marsh all down right side, pushed drive a little but it just caught the fairway, hung 6-iron a little, caught trap front/right, sand shot to 3', par,
#17. Really cool short par 5, marsh all along right side. Real good drive, tried to carry marsh short of green and just missed. Dropped back, pin was in back right lobe of green, sticking out into marsh, sand wedge to 10', sank putt, par.
#18. Marsh all down right side, gradual dogleg right. Aimed a little too far right, pushed drive, no chance. Reloaded, almost did it again, but just made fairway on the short route to the green. 9-iron to 50', 2 putts, double-bogey and 44. On to the front nine....

#1. Good drive, good 8-iron off a downhill lie, just ran off back edge, chipped back to 1 foot, par.
#2. Real good drive, 9-iron over water to 1', birdie!
#3. Real good drive, good 5-wood, good wedge but just a touch too hard, 40' past pin, 3 putts, arggh....
#4. Real good drive, very solid wedge to 13', 2 putts, par.
#5. 9-iron a little thin but ok, 2 putts from 40'. So even par for the side so far, under 40 ought to be doable....
#6. Real good drive, 5-wood pulled a little into trap, ok sand shot, 2 putts from 20', par.
#7. Hooked drive but just stayed in fairway, pulled 4 iron but safe and best place to miss, so-so chip to 12', 2 putts, bogey.
#8. 6-iron to right fringe of green sticking out into the marsh, 55' putt to 4', missed, arggh....
#9. Cool par 5, marsh all along the left, plus all around green, plus cutting across fairway part way. Really good drive 20 yards short of the cross marsh, 6-iron lay-up to 100 yard range, well, that was the plan, terrible rushed swing, topped ball and it dribbled into the marsh. Reloaded, nice 6-iron, nice wedge to narrow green, 2 putts from 25', double-bogey.

41 and 85, 5 penalty shots, a couple shots sideways out of the trees, could have, should have, would have,.... Or maybe just the golf gods making sure we don't think we're any better than we are. But it was really fun to play a bunch of good shots in a row.

A real nice course, pretty, excellent greens, only complaint would be that grass in the fairways was sometimes rather thin, so ball often was not sitting up very well. But that's a minor complaint.

Played from the white tees, 6033, par 72, 70.0/126.

To The Neuse outside of Raleigh tomorrow.

Friday, 12/15 - The Neuse, Clayton, NC

web site, aerial photo

Played at The Neuse, just outside of Raleigh. I'd read about the course a decade ago, and Mike Fritz had also recommended it. A very fine course, and quite difficult for a couple of reasons -- lots of elevation changes, and trouble on both sides of most holes. The latter is due to the usual housing development, so if the hole was in the interior of the property, there was Out of Bounds on both sides, if on the exterior, OB on one side and deep woods on the other. The fairways weren't excessively narrow, but psychologically it affects me.

Anyway, the greens were excellent. On the fairways the ball didn't sit up at all but the turf was soft enough that it wasn't hard to hit off (though easier for me than Gail, who is less used to hitting down on the ball). And there was a good variety of holes.

#1. Got lost getting there, so no time to warm up, just off to the first tee (the course was pretty fully booked, Friday, just awesome weather). Hooked drive into the tress, took a drop, 8-iron to just short of the green, good chip to 1', bogey. I didn't know it at the time, but that was one of only two irons all day that would miss the green, best day of hitting irons I think I've ever had. Which meant, of course, the driver went on vacation....
#2. Hooked another drive, bad-5-wood off a downhill/sidehill lie, sand wedge to 10', 2 putts, bogey.
#3. Par 3 155, solid 6-iron to middle of green, pin was way back, 3 putts from 50', bogey.
#4. Par 5, good drive, good 5-wood, sand wedge to 20', 2 putts, par.
#5. Snap hooked drive OB. Reloaded, real good drive, 9-iron, right on line, just a little short, 2 putts from 35', double bogey. Damn....
#6. Hung drive right, but fortunately there was a lot of room, solid 8-iron to blind target, 2 putts from 40', par.
#7. Par 3 145 uphill, solid 7-iron to center of green, real good 2-putt from 40' downhill to front pin, par.
#8. Par 5, solid drive, too far right but went a long ways. Tree trouble, 3-iron across to the left rough, solid 9-iron up hill to 20', par.
#9. Good drive, solid 7-iron uphill to way, way back pin, 2 putts from 20'. 41 for the nine, 3 penalty stokes.

#10. Par 5, drive to the right but just in play, good 5-wood to left rough, pitching wedge a little too solid, left 50' putt to front pin with a sharp slope down midway and a big bend. Great putt, died it just at the top of the slope, it turned and picked up speed and ended up 6" from the cup, par.
#11. Par 3, 160, 5-iron to green, 2 putts from 40', par.
#12. Par 4, 390, down off the tee then up to the green. Very solid drive, solid 5-iron from 155 to 40', sank putt, birdie! And that was where I should have stopped, last 9 holes in one over (with a ball OB). But of course hindsight is always 20-20....
#13. Dogleg par 4, down off the tee, then across a creek and up to the green. A sign at the tee said "178 yards to ideal landing spot." Which would be a 5-wood. Which I had little confidence in. And the yardage book said the fairway ran out at 209. So I hit my driver, pretty well, and with the downhill I was through the fairway, left with a sharply sidehill lie and tree trouble. Punched a 3-iron under the branches and over the creek, and most of the way up to the green, chip to 12', 2 putts, bogey.
#14. Par 3, 145. Trouble all around green, especially right and over, hit good 7-iron but held back a little, left a little short of green. Decent chip across sloping green to 15', 2 putts, bogey.
#15. Tough par 4, 370. Snap hook drive OB, reloaded, perfect drive, Really good 5-iron from 155 sharply uphill to back left pin, hit 10' from pin, just rolled across fringe and a foot into rough, scuffed chip but sank putt from 12', double-bogey, well, was almost a triple.
#16. Another tough par 4, 390 uphill. Good drive, 5-wood from 185 pulled into left trap, chunked first sand shot, second one not bad but left 20' downhiller, 3 putts, triple-bogey, there's my triple....
#17. Par 5 back downhill, good drive, solid 7-iron to 90 yards (better odds than 5-wood to maybe 40 yards and who knows what sort of trouble), wedge to 20', 2 putts, par.
#18. Uphill par 4, 370, hooked drive but still in play, hooked 5-wood but still in play, good chip to way back right pin (I actually missed my 5-wood in just the right spot), 2 putts from 12', bogey. 43 for the back nine, 84 for the day. Parts of my game really good, parts not, but that's better than none of it being any good. Still a little frustrating to finish poorly after playing so many holes so well.

Played from white tees, 6027, par 72, 69.1/125.

A couple of other comments. A couple of the greens had industrial size fans just off to the side, something I had first seen at several of the greens at the UNC Ripley course in Chapel Hill. I was told they are to keep the greens from overheating in the summer -- hot weather can kill the bent grass (which makes for much better greens thatn bermuda, though they are coming up with better varieties of bermuda). And I was also reminded of the 5th green yesterday at River's Edge, which had died last summer. What they had right now was pretty scruffy, made you realize how good all the other greens were.

The other thing that was especially noticeable today was how brown the courses are. The bermuda grass for the fairways and rough is dormant. The greens and tees are either bent or overseeded with rye, so they are green. The only place I remember for sure overseeding the fairways was Tobacco Road, though I think True Blue did too. It doesn't make them play much differently, but it is a lot prettier when the fairways are green, and it sure is harder to see your ball against the light brown background.

Last day tomorrow, Royal New Kent east of Richmond, another Mike Strantz design.

Note -- added a few comments at the very beginning of this log.

Saturday, 12/16 - Royal New Kent, Providence Forcge, VA

web site (doesn't seem to work on my Mac, but does on a PC), aerial photo (need to zoom in, course is NE of Providence Forge), course review

Last round of the trip, another wild course by Mike Strantz, and another beautiful day. Being a Saturday, the course was quite busy, and we were paired up with a father/son pair who happened to come from Lenox, MA. They were both very good (dad had a handicap of 1 and son was in the same league) and I think that was a little disconcerting, even though they were both unfailingly friendly. They were playing the back tees and had a mix of good and bad holes just as I did, but it was both impressive and a bit depressing to see how far they hit the ball. I think I'm happier playing with folks who are closer to my mediocre level.

#1. Ok drive, lousy 5-wood off a downhill'sidehill lie playing to a severely elevated green, but missed it in a safe spot, 40 yards left uphill over a trap, hit pitch too hard and on the back part of the green, pin was up front, on a lower level, and it took a decent effort to keep the first putt from running off the green and 50 yards back down the fairway. Still ran it about 10' past (closer was pretty much impossible), missed comeback, double-bogey. The 5-wood shot was quite awful, but I missed it in the right spot, the pitch weasn't bad, but above the hole was a no-no.
#2. Par 5 with a big u-turn around a ravine, so-so drive but in play, hooked 5-wood (but the hole bent around to the right), still in play, still a long ways from the hole. Solid 5 iron lay-up, solid sand wedge to 25', 2 putts, bogey. Ok.
#3. Par 3, probably 160 to pin in back left lobe of an hourglass-shaped green, 5-iron just pulled a little, intgo grass bunker 15-20' below green. Excellent lob wedge to about 15', 2 putts, bogey.
#4. Hit drive real thin, into fairway bunker I should have carried, Still about 170 uphill to green, tried to hit a wedge about 100 yards to a safe area, hit it fat, left with 125 from sidehill lie, Good 8-iron pulled just a hair, about 15' from the pin but just in the rough by 6" and downhill/sidehill to the hole. Used the putted, tapped it just right, triickled down and sopped right next to the hole, bogey.
#5. Par 5, lousy drive to the right into junk marked with red stakes, took a drop, so-so 5-wood, then topped the next 5-wood (but still in play!), then good 9-iron to green, 3 putts from about 50', triple-bogey.
#6. Pretty good drive, at last. 7-iron uphill to narrow green, pulled it a little, down into chipping area 10-15' below green. Tight lie, putted up hill but not hard enough, rolled back to a slightly different spot with more grass, really good pitch with lob wedge, sank putt from 5', bogey.
#7. Par 3, poor 4-iron, left, lucky to be in play and only about 15 yards from pin, good pitch over small creek, 2 putts from 15', bogey. So after 7 holes I hadn't even come close to making a par, and all the bogies had been a struggle. Not looking good. Struggling to keep a positive outlook...
#8. Tough driving hole, narrow slot to avoid traps/hill on right and creek/junk on left, hit it perfect. Solid 9-iron to 20', 2 putts, par. I needed that!
#9. Another perfect drive, good 9-iron uphill, played a little long/left to avoid severe trouble short right, 2 putts from 40' on left fringe, par. 46 for the front nine, could have been much worse.

#10. Wild par 5. Another perfect drive, left with a "how much of the wasteland can I carry" decision, went for a chunk of it, good 5-wood just long enough, left sand wedge over more junk to very severe green, hit solid to 20', 2 putts, par, excellent, 3 in a row!
#11. Hooked drive, still in play but terrible lie, sitting down between two stiff tufts of grass. Topped 5-iron (solid contact was pretty much impossible), at least it was straight, then wedge to sharply uphill green, hit right next to pin but ran 15' past into back fringe. Severe green, sloping back to front, dad was in the same area, chipp a hair too hard and it ran 30' past hole. So I just touched mine, and of course left it 5' short, then just touched the next one and it trickled very slowly (but wasn't going to stop!) and just caught the left edge of the cup, bogey, lucky.
#12. Downhill par 3 from 170, but pin was up front of 86-yard long hourglass green, so I took off 30 yards for that and 10 yards for being downhill and hit a solid 8-iron just a little left and just past hole high, 2 putts from 30', par!
#13. Pushed drive a little but good enough to carry the cross bunkers and not far enough right to catch some other ones. Plus it was the short route to the green. Solid wedge a little left of pin, but I hadn't seen the big slope there, ball gradually trickled down and off, 3 putts from 50', first one up a steep slope, over the crest and then slightly down, not bad, left with a 5-footer, then missed it. Bogey, but not bad.
#14. Things were going wll, so time for a meltdown. Short par 4, 310, variousbunkers/junk/dunes at 200 yards, with about a 5 yard gap through to the next area of fairway at 240. I don't know why I hit my driver but I did, I suppose I didn't have much faith in 5-wood at the time. Flew the ball into a bunker about 5 yards left of the gap, very steep lip, got it out but not well, just into the next bunker. For this one the lip was lower, but I hit it fat, so now I'm in the fairway about 50 yards short of the elevated green. Chunk a lob wedge, then hit the next pitch a little too hard to the back fringe (pin was way back), then roll in a curving downhiller for an easy double-bogey. Many bad shots, all started by being dumb.
#15. Par 3 about 160, again a very elevated green, lousy 5-iron, at least it stopped part way up the slope and didn't roll back to the bottom. Made sure I hit my pitch hard enough, 15' past pin, 2 putts, bogey.
#16. 410 par 4 dog-leg left then up to green, time for meltdown #2. Perfect drive, solid with a draw around the corner, still 180 to the green, pulled 5-wood into left trap, chunked sand shot, repeat, repeat except this one just got out, chip 15' past pin, two putts, quadruple-bogey, arggh, what a terrible way to finish the last round....
#17. Par 5, pretty straightforward except for a creek right in front of a very shallow green. Hitting right into the sun, never saw drive, felt like a hook, but it was dead center, then solid 7-iron lay-up to leave a full shot, solid wedge except it went 5-10 yards more than expected, just flew the green, stopped dead on the steep bank behind the pin. Best odds seemed to use my putter, ok but not great, 2 putts from 7', bogey, but at least 3 solid shots.
#18. Last hole of the day, the trip, and the year. Par 4, 350, wide area for the drive, then all over water to a shallow green with more water behind, pin in left corner. Solid drive, a little to the right but no problem, then a very sweet 8-iron from 135, pin high and 20' to the right, just where I was aiming. Very fine, considering that dumping it in the pond was very possible. A birdie would have been nice, putt was dead center, stopped about 6" short. Still very fine way to finish.

Anyway, my round started poorly and stayed poor for a while, and then had a mix of good and bad holes the rest of the way. Certainly one of my less successful outings. And this was on a course that could exact a penalty on any shot that was not hit well. I ended up shooting 46-46=92. Actually, given the course, it could easily have been in 3 digits. But I had enough good shots and satisfying holes to limit the damage. And the course was spectacular.

Another 46, 92 for 18. Worst score of the trip, but also the hardest course (6023, par 72, 70.8/135). Could have done a lot worse, could easily have been in 3 digits. But I had enough good shots and satisfying holes to limit the damage. And the course was spectacular. And I'd guess dad (the 1-handicapper) probably shot in the mid-80s (or even upper 80s), despite hitting some spectacular shots, though he was playing a lot longer course (6965, 74.9/144). You pay for your mistakes.

Home the next day after a nice stop in Stafford to take advantage of Kissy's fine hospitality. And sure hoping that another trip like this is in the cards for sometime next year.


Forest Greens - 43
Cannon Ridge - 42-41-83
UNC Ripley - 39-40=79
Chapel Ridge - 46-45=91
Tobacco Road - 41-45=86
Legacy - 40-44=84
Crescent Pointe - 50-40=90
Oyster Reef - 48-44=92
Eagle's Pointe - 46 + 43-40-83
Southern Hills - 45-41=86
Georgia Veterans - 43-40=83
Lakes at Laura Walker - 47-45=92
Indian Mound - 42-41=83
Ocean Dunes - 45
True Blue - 39-42=81
Legends Moorland - 42-42=84
Legends Parkland - 47
River's Edge - 44-41=85
The Neuse - 41-43=84
Royal New Kent - 46-46=92

Ranking of courses:

Wonderful (but helps to be playing well)
Tobacco Road
True Blue
Legends Moorland
Cannon Ridge
Royal New Kent

Very good (would go again gladly)
UNC Ripley
Southern Hills
Lakes at Laura Walker
Legends Parkland
Glen Dornoch
River's Edge
The Neuse

Crescent Point (not sure, played badly)
Eagle's Pointe
Georgia Veterans
Indian Mound
Ocean Dunes

Forest Greens (too tight for me, so-so conditioning)
Chapel Ridge (not sure, played in rain)
Legacy (nothing special)