Southern Hills Country Club (Championship)

Southern Hills Country Club (Championship) – Played September 2016

  • Rankings: Golf Digest #30, Golf Magazine #35
  • Location: 2636 East 61st Street, Tulsa, Oklahoma
  • Year: 1936
  • Architect: Perry Maxwell
  • Course Access: Private
  • Walking Rules: Carts & Caddies Available

Score Card Information:

  • Blue: 7,218 yards, Par 71, 76.8 Rating/146 Slope
  • White: 6,609 yards, Par 71, 73.7 Rating/144 Slope
  • Maxwell: 6,319 yards, Par 71, 72.7 Rating/142 Slope
  • Gold: 6,113 yards, Par 71, 71.2 Rating/138 Slope (Men’s), 78.3 Rating/141 Slope (Women’s)
  • Red: 5,756 yards, Par 74, 69.4 Rating/132 Slope (Men’s), 75.6 Rating/135 Slope (Women’s)
  • Silver: 5,443 yards, Par 74, 73.8 Rating/134 Slope

It’s always a great feeling to get an invitation to high-end private clubs.  It was no different when my friend contacted me about playing Southern Hills.  I jumped at the chance especially since the timing worked out to be just after a really busy time at work.  By now you probably know I drive everywhere I can.  Tulsa was just within range for me with the wife helping on the drive.  As usual, she was a huge help on the trip and we got there in time to catch a few hours of sleep before the tee time.

I arrived at the club for lunch with my friend and our member host.  Our host was awesome and showed us all around the clubhouse.  There is memorabilia throughout and you can feel the history oozing out of the walls.  Our host also explained the extensive renovations the clubhouse has undergone since the club’s inception.  The layout has changed drastically, but you would never know.  Everything fits inside the building and has a great feel. Continue reading “Southern Hills Country Club (Championship)”

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Boston Golf Club

Boston Golf Club – Played July 2016

  • Rankings: Golf Digest #74, Golf Magazine #81
  • Location: 19 Old County Road, Hingham, Massachusetts
  • Year: 2005
  • Architect: Gil Hanse
  • Course Access: Private
  • Walking Rules: Caddies Available

Score Card Information:

  • Championship: 7,062 yards, Par 71 , 74.8 Rating/139 Slope
  • Back: 6,740 yards, Par 71, 73.4 Rating/136 Slope
  • Member Stake: 6,462 yards, Par 71, 71.0 Rating/131 Slope
  • Middle: 6,279 yards, Par 71, 70.6 Rating/128 Slope
  • Forward: 5,021 yards, Par 71, 69.6 Rating/125 Slope

This is one of the more modern courses in the Top 100 rankings seeing as it opened in 2005.  It is just to the south of downtown Boston.  While the distance is short, the trip duration will depend on time.  Boston has some bad traffic so plan for that when you are heading in for your tee time.  Being that this is a Boston-area course, I was not surprised to hear my caddie say they have had groups with Tom Brady, Tedy Bruschi, Randy Moss, and Tuuka Rask.

I haven’t had the opportunity to play any Gil Hanse courses so I was looking forward to this.  I figured it would serve as a good introduction to his work and give me somewhat of a connection to Olympic golf since he designed that course as well.  I had a morning tee time on a Wednesday morning.  There weren’t too many people at the course when I got there.  After I was taken care of very well by the bag drop attendant and in the pro shop, it was off to meet my caddie and get started early.

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Monterey Peninsula Country Club (Shore)

Monterey Peninsula Country Club (Shore) – Played June 2016

  • Rankings: Golf Digest #66, Golf Magazine #69
  • Location: 3000 Club Road, Pebble Beach, California
  • Year: 1960, 2003 (Update)
  • Architect: Robert Baldock (Original), Mike Strantz (Update)
  • Course Access: Private
  • Walking Rules: Carts & Caddies Available

Score Card Information:

  • Gold: 6,873 yards, Par 72, 74.3 Rating/133 Slope
  • Black: 6,478 yards, Par 72, 72.2 Rating/130 Slope
  • Blue: 5,987 yards, Par 72, 69.8 Rating/126 Slope

The Shore Course at Monterey Peninsula Country Club would end up being the last Top 100 course on the trip.  I honestly couldn’t think of a better course to end on.  The facility is awesome with a great setting right on the Pacific as you will see in the pictures.  It is an old facility, but it is in great shape.  One reflection of the historic vibe is that the course is pants only.  Very cool, but with the temperatures in Monterey I’m not sure you would ever need shorts!

Let’s look into some of the history of the club.  In 1924 the legendary Seth Raynor began work on the Dunes Course, but unfortunately died during construction.  The course was completed by Robert Hunter and Dr. Alister MacKenzie.  In 1926 the beautiful Spanish Colonial clubhouse was opened (you can see a photo of that below).  Some years later in 1960, the Shore Course was built for the small sum of $100,000.  That is amazing to me after playing it, but hey inflation is a killer.  In 1998 Rees Jones remodeled the Dunes and in 2003 Mike Strantz redid the Shore.  Finally in 2015, the Fazio Design Group did a second remodel of the Dunes Course that completed at the end of April 2016.

One of the biggest pieces of club history is hosting the PGA Tour.  Starting in 1947, the club introduced the Bing Crosby Tournament, which started with a handful of Crosby’s friends. For a decade the tournament was a whirlwind affair for Crosby and his cronies.  For 18 years the event was played on the Dunes Course before shifting to the Shore for 1965 and 1966.  The tournament moved away except for 1977, but in 2010 the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am (the modern incarnation of the Crosby) and the club agreed to add the Shore Course to the tournament’s rotation.  That agreement is in place through 2020.  Here’s hoping it stays for a long time after that.

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California Golf Club of San Francisco

California Golf Club of San Francisco – Played June 2016

  • Rankings: Golf Magazine #58
  • Location: 844 West Orange Avenue, South San Francisco, California
  • Year: 1926, 2008 (Update)
  • Architect: A. Vernon Macan (Original), Kyle Philips (Update)
  • Course Access: Private
  • Walking Rules: Carts & Caddies Available

Score Card Information:

  • Venturi: 7,216 yards, Par 72, 74.7 Rating/135 Slope
  • Back: 6,797 yards, Par 72, 72.7 Rating/131 Slope
  • Middle: 6,308 yards, Par 72, 70.2 Rating/129 Slope
  • Forward: 5,401 yards, Par 69 (Men’s), 66.2 Rating/120 Slope

Social media is a wonderful thing.  It allowed me to play this wonderful course.  I won’t go into too many more details than that, but let me say that I am very thankful for the opportunity.

It would be an early morning driving down from Sonoma, but it is easy to get up when you have a spectacular course to play.  After the always awe-inspiring drive over the Golden Gate Bridge it was a short drive to the club.  I was driving through South San Francisco wondering where my GPS was taking me.  All of a sudden I make a right and go up a little nondescript road.  On the right is the gate to the club!  I had no traffic and made it there way too early.  So I tooled around the area and got some breakfast.

Once my tee time drew closer I made my way up to the club to meet my host.  Let’s talk a little about the history of the establishment.

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Merion Golf Club (East)

Merion Golf Club (East) – Played 2016

  • Rankings: Golf Digest #6, Golf Magazine #7
  • Location: 450 Ardmore Avenue, Ardmore, Pennsylvania
  • Year: 1912
  • Architect: Hugh I. Wilson
  • Course Access: Private
  • Walking Rules: Walking Only, Caddies Available

Score Card Information:

  • Back: 6,541 yards, Par 70 , 73.4 Rating/146 Slope
  • Middle: 6,126 yards, Par 70 (Men’s), 74 (Women’s), 71.3 Rating/144 Slope (Men’s), 77.4 Rating/151 Slope (Women’s)
  • Forward: 5,746 yards, Par 70 (Men’s), 74 (Women’s), 69.5 Rating/136 Slope (Men’s), 75.2 Rating/147 Slope (Women’s)

“Acre for acre, it may be the best test of golf in the world.”  That is the quote from none other than Jack Nicklaus.  To say I was giddy to play this course would be a monumental understatement.

Luckily, I was able to connect with a member as Merion is not keen on unaccompanied guest play.  I am not aware of a way to play it without a member.  In addition to my luck in finding a member, my host was a wealth of knowledge on the club and it’s history.  I will sprinkle as much of his wisdom throughout this post as I can.  I wish I could’ve taken notes.

The club was known as Merion Cricket Club until 1941.  It was originally founded in 1896 at the original golf course in nearby Haverford.  In 1910, the members decided to build a new course and the East was completed in 1912.  The West was finished two years later.  It was quite a feat to build two courses in that time frame with no modern machinery.  Amazingly, the East course is routed over just 126 acres.  For comparison, Augusta National is 365 acres.

Merion is quirky is a good way.  One of the things that makes it different is the wicker basket used on each hole.  Each pin on the East only is topped with a wicker basket.  Though never verified, the story goes that Hugh Wilson saw English sheep herders stored their lunch in wicker baskets at the top of their staffs.  While visible when playing the course, they do not give the golfer any idea of wind direction.  Until 1980, the baskets were made on site.  Apparently, now a woman in my home state of South Carolina makes the baskets.  Her name and location are purposely kept anonymous.  The golf course assistant superintendents collect the wickers every night, so they will not be stolen.

The championship history at Merion is astounding.  It has hosted 18 USGA events including five U.S. Opens.  Bobby Jones played his first major here and closed out his Grand Slam here in 1930 (more on that later).  Ben Hogan won a year after almost dying on that lonesome road in a horrific car crash.  Lee Trevino beat none other than Jack Nicklaus here in an 18 hole playoff where he scared him with the rubber snake on the first tee!  In the 2013 US Open, my host relayed that only three players played as many as five practice rounds.  Those three were Justin Rose, Jason Day, and Phil Mickelson.  Yeah they all finished in the top three!  In addition to a trophy, anyone winning a USGA event supposedly receives a wicker basket. Continue reading “Merion Golf Club (East)”

Streamsong (Blue)

Streamsong (Blue) – Played 2015

  • Rankings: Golf Magazine #62
  • Location: 1000 Streamsong Drive, Streamsong, Florida
  • Year: 2012
  • Architect: Tom Doak
  • Course Access: Resort
  • Walking Rules: Carts & Caddies Available (Walking Only at Certain Times)

Score Card Information:

  • Green: 7,176 yards, Par 72, 74.1 Rating/131 Slope
  • Black: 6,698 yards, Par 72, 72.0 Rating/127 Slope
  • Silver: 6,285 yards, Par 72, 69.7 Rating/123 Slope
  • Gold: 5,531 yards, Par 72, 71.6 Rating/122 Slope

The second day at Streamsong featured the Blue course designed by Tom Doak.  The course features multiple elevation changes.  The course seemed like it had been there forever.  Like Coore & Crenshaw, he was blessed with a wonderful piece of land.  Also like the Red, I think the Blue will begin to rack up awards as more people get to play it.

This day also featured plenty of wind.  Unlike my trip to Bandon, I got the full wind experience.  Let’s just say it added some strokes to the score!

Continue reading “Streamsong (Blue)”

Streamsong (Red)

Streamsong (Red) – Played 2015

  • Rankings: Golf Magazine #52
  • Location: 1000 Streamsong Drive, Streamsong, Florida
  • Year: 2012
  • Architect: Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw
  • Course Access: Resort
  • Walking Rules: Carts & Caddies Available (Walking Only at Certain Times)

Score Card Information:

  • Green: 7,148 yards, Par 72, 74.2 Rating/130 Slope
  • Black: 6,584 yards, Par 72, 71.7 Rating/125 Slope
  • Silver: 6,094 yards, Par 72, 69.4 Rating/119 Slope
  • Gold: 5,184 yards, Par 72, 70.0 Rating/122 Slope

This marked the real meat of my Florida trip.  I was getting to play both Streamsong courses on weekdays.  The only thing that could make it better was if the wife or some buddies could have joined me.

On the Monday of my trip, I got to take on the Red course at the resort.  It was designed by the dream team of Coore & Crenshaw.  I still haven’t found one of their courses that I dislike.  The course goes through large sand dunes and other scenery.  I think the architects were very happy with the piece of land they got to work with.

Due to the newness of the course there is not much in the way of history.  I think that will change as more people get to play the course.  As the years pass, I think it will rack up considerable accolades.

I was paired up for this round with a very nice couple from Argentina.  The wife got a caddy and I was very interested to learn that he caddied for Roland Thatcher for many years.  I asked some questions about life on tour for a caddy and it made for some interesting conversation.  It’s always nice to hear some stories when you’re on the course.

Continue reading “Streamsong (Red)”