Highlight of The Year – Part 1 - The Score Top 100 Show
Jason Logan came to me with the idea of him playing a par four while I talked about all the options he had while explaining how to design a short par four. We selected the 5th at Hamilton because it had marvelous multiple options and they were about to play a Canadian Open there. The whole piece was done in about two hours and what I said was off completely off the cuff and done in a single take. The exception was at the green because I realized I went to the wrong side of the flag (blocked my face) and promptly swore. My only regret is saying “great shot” too often, but Jason did hit the ball well and it was unfortunately my instinct.
http://scoregolf.com/media/television/1_e4fwutts go to 27:25 to watch for 8 minutes
I proudly watched the show with my family but before I could beam with pride my oldest son took me down a peg by saying, “What a lousy script.” I replied, “But it was done on the fly without a script” To which he responded, “You definitely need a script.”
My Golf Trips
This was the least number of rounds (25) that I’ve played since I separated my shoulder during a hockey tournament. It was a very busy year with so much construction and long days spent on site. But I did make two short golf trips during the year.
The first was in April for the ASGCA meeting in Chattanooga. We played Lookout Mountain by Seth Raynor (great course), Chattanooga Country Club by Donald Ross (very good set of threes) and The Honours Course by Pete Dye (awesome except the lake holes which did nothing for me). It was the first time we played a great set of courses for an ASGCA meeting in five years (I’m skipping the next over the golf and location).
The second trip was the biannual Golf Societies Study Tour. The courses were Bethpage (Black) by A.W. Tillinghast (see review below), The National Golf Links of America by Charles Blair Macdonald (awesome), Maidstone by Willie Park Jr. (fantastic) and Baltusrol (Lower) by A.W. Tillinghast (good but not great). I also played Spring Brook in New Jersey by Walter Travis and The Creek Club by Seth Raynor (awesome) in preparation the matches. How good was that trip!
Golfing Highlight of The Year – Part 2 - Highlands Links with James
I managed to play Highlands Links four times including a round with Adam Lawrence (Golf Architecture Magazine), one with Tom Dunne (Links Magazine), one with Robert Thompson and a couple with Graham Hudson. But the highlight was with round I played with youngest son James. I have played the course with my father in 1981 and now with my youngest son in 2012. It was one of those great circles of life moments few of us get to enjoy. My wife was also with us (not playing) and it was the first round of golf I have ever spent in the company of my wife!
Best Course – National Golf Links of America
This is the course that changed American Golf Design. It introduced Americans to brilliant concepts on the grandest of scale imaginable with some of the greatest detailing work the game has ever seen. The golf course exudes all the same playing pleasures and options that people love at the Old Course, while throwing in some excellent novel twists of its own. It is in my Top 5!
Golfing Highlight of the Year – Part 3 – The Zone
In competition at Maidstone, from the 13th to the 3rd holes (began on 8th) I went: birdie, par, par, par, par, bogie, bogie, par, birdie. Even par over nine holes in competition. At times I was so in control that I played for spots on greens. One of the bogies was a three putt. We ended up waiting on the 4th tee for two groups to finish and the magic was gone, I promptly topped my tee shot in the water and made double bogey …. ugh. but it was nice while it lasted.
Most Disappointing Course – Bethpage Black
I really loved the course the first time I played it despite the one dimensional playing style because I was so impressed with the magnificent scale of architecture and the spectacular use of angles off the tee and at the greens. I thought it was a brilliant layout despite the rough between fairway and greens which made it overly penal.
The recent grassing lines are so much worse. The fairways have been dramatically narrowed down to around 25 yards so it’s always at US Open width removing both the options and the last remnants of playability. The result is a course that only the last .0001% can play, which is kind of stupid considering it’s a “public course.”
What they missed or didn’t seem to comprehend was unless you are ridiculously long or can work the ball in the direction of the diagonal, there is not enough width to keep the ball in many fairways. Since so much play is on an angle and each green is fronted by thick rough and deep bunkers, most of the day is spent laying up on your second shots.
It was a much better golf course with wider fairways, both for play and aesthetics it created. The fairways don’t match the scale of hazards, setting or land and everything no longer fits flawlessly liked it once did. They need to fix the grassing lines.
Best Renovation Work – The Creek Club
Sometimes it’s not what you add, but what you remove that makes a restoration. The Creek Club got rid of a lot of trees to open up the course and expand the views, particularly below the clubhouse. Now those holes are separated by beautiful stands of native grasses instead of the trees that once blocked the view of the ocean. All the invasive vegetation is gone from the dune holes and the dunes were rebuilt and replanted to match the original feel when the course opened. Finally, the invasive reeds that blocked the view of the water on the lowest holes set on the ocean inlet were all removed. The result is beautiful ocean views and a far more playable set of holes. Few clubs have gained so much by removal alone.
Biggest Surprise – Glens Falls Country Club – Donald Ross
Glens Falls would be best described as one of the wildest rollercoaster rides in golf. It is a wonderful Donald Ross course set in the forests of upper New York State featuring some of the biggest ups and downs I have seen in quite some time. The variation in how Ross used the land is a tantamount to how good Donald Ross was at identifying excellent holes. There is nothing flat from the fairways to the greens and there are so many truly innovative features added including the one of a kind green on the 5th. This course is easily in the Top 100 in the world and one of the greatest surprises I have ever had. It’s that good … and I’m lucky enough to be working there.
My Writing this Year
I did a bit of writing for publications, but I’ve not actively pursued much since 2008. I enjoy writing, but I don’t like the idea of taking the work from writers when their opportunities shrank with fewer publications and working for lower rates.
Here are the articles I was asked to write:
Restoring a Stanley Thompson ClassicComing in January in Canadian Groundskeeper
The piece discusses the challenges of working at Highlands Links.
“How to Build a Better Bunker” (click to link)In Golf Business Canada, Winter 2012
This is a step by step guide to building a better bunker that will last.
“Is Technology Progress? (click to link)Golf Architecture Magazine, January 2012
I take on the hidden ramification of technology and how it impacts and hurts the game
The Blog – 2012 in Stats (as of Dec. 15th)
2012 Page Views 108,2042012 Posts I Made 113
2012 Posts Still Up (edited recently) 80
Most Popular (all time) Review of Pebble Beach Golf Links
Most Popular (recent) Letter to ASGCA
2012 My Choice: Do Bunkers Represent the Same Strategic Value They Once Did?
My Life with Anxiety
There is a stigma attached to someone trying to cope with mental health issues and because of this it inhibits people`s wiliness to seek help. The Let's Talk Mental Health Initiative is all about people sharing their own issues to help others come forward and deal with their problems. So this year I shared a blog called: My Life with Anxiety
Flights 78Miles Flown 80,533 miles
Kilometers Driven for Work 23,807 km
Longest Trip away 13 days
Nights in a Hotel 48
Cars Rented: 29
Nights in My Montreal Apartment 30 (May and June)
Days working in Montreal 38
Days working in Cape Breton 13
A Dream Year
I was finishing a dream restoration project at Highlands Links, interviewing at clubs in Monterrey, Chicago and New York, all while working on a new golf course for Laval-sur-le-lac with Mike Weir. This was the best year I ever had as an architect.