Golf Courses


I’m going local today.

As some of you may know, I live in Nashville. Life has been crazy here in Music City during the last week.

The Great Flood of 2010 (or The 1,000 Year Flood as it’s also been called) has impacted tens of thousands of people throughout our city. Some of our landmarks like Opryland, The Country Music Hall of Fame, and LP Field have taken pretty bad damage from the flooding. The flood has claimed twenty casualties to this point. No matter where you turn, you see damage. President Obama officially recognized the city as a disaster area, meaning it’s now open for federal funding to help restore peoples’ lives.

My wife and I were fortunate. Flood waters reached our front yard, but stayed out of the house. Neighbors three houses down had water reach a few feet below their second level. One neighbor had to be rescued by boat. A friend who lives in Bellevue rescued 25 people in his boat and carried them to safer ground. Another friend lost the entire inventory of his store.

I helped some friends rip up hardwood floors and sheet rock yesterday, and I was stunned by the amount of damage in one neighborhood. You literally can hardly see houses because of the piles of debris and trash now in front yards and driveways, lined up and down entire streets. It’s indescribable.  No one ever thought this could happen in Nashville.

I could show you photos of our neighborhood, downtown Nashville, Franklin or Bellevue (google Nashville flood photos if you’re interested), but I thought I’d stick to the theme of this blog and show you some photos* from our local golf courses.

Not too many people are focused on golf around here during the past week, but it will give you an idea of the damage. Keep in mind that these courses are spread out all over the city. The flood didn’t just hit one area—it was widespread.

Gaylord Springs sits next to the Opryland Hotel. This is an immaculate, difficult course that has hosted Senior Tour events. This course has been closed until further notice.

Gaylord Springs Clubhouse nearly underwater...the course isn't even visible.

The Golf Club of Tennessee is a private course just west of the city.

Golf Club of Tennessee underwater.

Old Hickory Country Club damaged.

18th tee isn't even visible.

The Legends Course in Franklin is one of the most popular private courses in the area. Awesome track.

Twelfth Hole.

Mccabe Golf Course is a short, fun municipal course that I’ve played many times. I’ve even wrote about it. It’s a 27 hole layout, and 9 of the holes are now closed.

Serious damage at McCabe.

Mccabe will stay open but will now be a par 67 while damage is repaired.

More serious damage at Mccabe.

And those are just a few of the courses affected. Harpeth Hills has been closed. Richland Country Club has serious bunker damage. The list goes on.

If you live in the area, you know the damage we’ve seen here. It’s rough. But I’m amazed by the spirit of everyone in Nashville. Everyone seems to have picked themselves up and decided to move on with life, no matter how difficult the past weekend has been. It’s inspiring, really.

Some of these courses are an important part of Nashville’s business, and just like the city itself, they’ll bounce right back.

*Photos property of respective copyright holders. Used for informational purposes only.

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I’m going to be honest: I’m not a well-traveled golfer.

I’ve played at a lot of nice courses over the years, thanks to high school, college, and summer tournaments. But outside of that, about 95% of the golf courses I’ve played are in my former home state of Georgia. Since moving to Tennessee last March, I’ve probably made it to about 10 courses here. I guess I’m just a creature of habit.

Maybe I’m an optimist, but I see some type of golf vacation in my future. The future could be ten years away, but it’s the future nonetheless.

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Pinehurst tops my wish list of golf vacations. (Image: deltaMike/Flickr)

Here’s a few of my vacation targets:

Pinehurst: Is there a better golf destination in the world?  With 8 courses on the resort, a spa and plenty of shopping for the wives, plus a world-class hotel and restaurant, does it get better than this?

Scotland: I’m a Bruce, so Scotland is a no-brainer. Italy and Scotland are the top two countries on our must-visit list, even if I never play golf. That said, it’s hard to pick just one course from Scotland—St. Andrews, Carnoustie, Turnberry. It’s a long list.

Pebble Beach: This one is going to happen one day, maybe sooner rather than later. Maybe I can even work up a second round at Spyglass Hill.

Spain: I’ve read a little about La Manga Las Lomas Village lately. The resort has been named European Golf Resort of the Year several times. With three outstanding championship courses, this is as good as European golf gets.

So those are a few of my wishlist destinations. Any suggestions?

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Harbour Town's first tee. (Image: Robert Bruce's iPhone)

Last month, my wife and I took a trip to meet some friends in Hilton Head—the home of one of the PGA Tour’s most well-known courses, Harbour Town.

Since we were there for just a few days, I didn’t get the chance to play a round on one of Hilton Head’s gazillion courses. Most of my time was spent on the beach, playing bocce ball—a game I’ve discovered that I suck at thanks to Josh and Marc—or eating, and eating, and eating.

A couple of friends and I did make it over to Harbour Town, just to check it out. I stood on the first tee—see photo—and imagined a beautiful fade landing on the left center of the first fairway. Maybe next time I’ll actually play the course.

Standing on the first tee at Harbour Town reminded me of all the courses I still want to visit. Pebble, St. Andrews, Bethpage—just a few of the tracks on my golf course bucket list that I listed last year. I’ve made zero progress on that list.

Maybe it’s time to take action. Problem is, scoring a tee time at some of these courses is as difficult as finding one sunflower seed in a tossed salad. You’ve just got to plan ahead.

So I need a goal. Sometime in the next two years, I’m going to play one of the courses on my bucket list. Which one? I have no idea. But, if this blog is still kicking, I’ll report it here first.

Thanks, Harbour Town.

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The tightest 95-yard par 3 in the history of golf. (Image: Robert Bruce's iPhone)

Ever since I returned to golf last year, my wedge game has sucked.

In my past life, I was fairly decent from one hundred yards in, and even better around the greens. The 60 degree wedge was once my favorite club.

But things are different these days.

I headed out to a nearby par three course to work on my hundred yard shot. The nine hole course is a bit more than a pitch and putt, with holes ranging from 80 yards to about 175 yards.

The brief nine holes, which took a little over an hour to complete, was actually quite beneficial. I played two balls and practiced on a lot of shots that have been giving me trouble lately: longer pitches, flop shots, even one-hundred yard straight-away shots.

The highlight of the round was the tightest 95-yard par three you have ever seen (see photo). After placing my first ball about 30 feet right of the hole, I played a knockdown 56 degree wedge—under the trees and over the bunker—and managed to cozy the ball up to about three feet. But second shots are always better.

Anyway, I’ve always stayed away from par three courses for some reason. But yesterday helped me see that a day at the ole’ par three is actually not a bad idea, especially if you are struggling with your short game.

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Grand National named the number one public course by Golf World readers. (Image: DJ Damian/Flickr)

So I’m ashamed to say that I lived in Birmingham for three years and never played any of the Robert Trent Jones courses. Seriously, that’s sad.

Now, granted, I was at the peak of my burnout phase during that time. I’d just as soon sew a quilt all day than play a round of golf. But, nonetheless, I must have had serious issues to not play any of these tracks.

Grand National and Capitol Hill were named the top two public courses by the readers of Golf World Magazine. You can see the list here.

The Robert Trent Jones trail is a mecca for many a golfer, much like Pinehurst in North Carolina. If you’re ever in the vicinity, get yourself to an RTJ course. Don’t be an idiot, like me.

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This Christmas, invite the Golden Bear to build a course in your backyard. (Image:MatthwJ/Flickr)

Don’t you just dream of the day when you’ll have a custom designed Jack Nicklaus golf course in your backyard?

Well, wait no more. Tear down the patio, rip up the deck, move the grill to the garage. Because for a cool million dollars, you can indulge your golf fantasies with a three-hole track designed by one of the game’s greatest golfers–right in the comfort of your backyard.

Neiman Marcus has teamed with the Golden Bear to offer this Christmas gift for golfers who have apparently run out of things to spend their money on. Yeah, Wal-Mart and Target offer golf nets and cheap indoor putting greens. Neiman Marcus…um, they sell golf courses.

Says Neiman Marcus:

Jack will study topography, aerial photos, and landscape maps for the site, then send his team to survey the property. He’ll create a formal design plan and color renderings for up to three holes and a practice area, depending on the size of your back forty. Your construction crew builds from it, with supervision from Jack’s world-class design team (the same team pursued by premier club owners worldwide). Now to sink the winning putt; when your course is finished, the Golden Bear himself will stop by to play the first round with you, personally. More? He’ll sign his club and ball for your collection and throw in a custom set of Nicklaus clubs, including a personalized bag.

Oh, and if you visit the page, notice the copy at the bottom: “Construction and site preparation costs not included.” Probably another hundy thousand or two for that.

I’m picturing Jack’s design on my property, if I had an extra million to blow. The first hole, a 12 yard par 3 over a water drain. The second, an uphill 15-yard, dogleg right par 4 around a magnolia tree. And the finishing hole, a 14 yard par 4 with OB right and barking weiner dog left. I think I could take Jack on this baby.

I make fun, but I’d love to see this course once it’s finished. I just can’t fathom having the resources to do this. Let’s hope the crazed golfer who makes this purchase actually does have the resources to do this and isn’t cleaning out the mutual funds and taking out an exorbant HELOC loan. Golfers are a crazy breed, so you never know.

So you have less than three months. Start saving now.

Think I’m joking? Read more from Neiman Marcus.

Recently, I was scanning Golf Digest‘s rankings of the top 100 courses in the U.S., both private and public, as well as our nation’s top 100 public courses. Though I’ve played hundreds of golf courses in my 32 years, I realized that, sadly, I have played only 4 courses in both of those lists combined.

Of the top 100 overall, I’ve been fortunate to play Ocean Forest G.C. and East Lake C.C. in Georgia. And of the public courses, I’ve managed to play Cuscowilla and Great Waters–both in Georgia, as well. Kinda sad.

Though I’d love to play Oakmont or Augusta, it’s probably not going to happen–unless I’m just at the right place at the right time. But with a little planning and efficient money management, I could possibly play a few dozen of Golf Digest‘s top 100 public courses.

So, to get things started, I made a list of the five public courses I must, and shall, play before I move on to heaven’s eighteen. For kicks and giggles, I added two courses in Scotland I must, and shall, play as well.

These are in no particular order.

Bethpage Black:

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Bethpage Black laughs at your 2 handicap. Be happy to shoot 85 on this behomoth. (Image: erova/flickr)

You’ve got to love any course with a warning sign to frighten high handicappers. I fell in love with the idea of playing this course after reading John Feinstein’s book, The Open, which I reviewed a few months ago. The Black Course is the site of next year’s U.S. Open, but was first thrust into the limelight after the USGA renovated the course for the 2002 Open. The best thing about the Black? It’s cheap. Since the Bethpage Courses are within the confines of a state park, you only pay about $100 for a round…compared with up to $500 for some of the other courses on this list. I’d be happy to break 90 on this beast.

Pebble Beach:

This one is just a no-brainer. Really, any golfer worth his salt sets a goal to play Pebble Beach. In fact, if you are ever within a 200 mile radius of Pebble and you don’t play this legendary course, then consider yourself banished from the list of cool golfers. This would be the equivalent of calling yourself a hardcore baseball fan without ever visiting Wrigley Field. If you’re a true golfer, you gotta play Pebble. I guess I’m not a true golfer…yet.

Bandon Dunes:

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The 12th green at Bandon Dunes. Now that's pretty. (Image: shlinklincoln/Flickr)

As good as it gets for links golf in the U.S. What a beautiful, beautiful golf course. Since Bandon Dunes is part of a resort with three other courses (Pacific Dunes and Bandon Trail), I could perhaps convince the wife to, one day, venture with me to this beautiful track of land in Oregon. Beautiful golf course with a world-class spa and fabulous restaurants…what’s not to like?

Pinehurst #2:

Some might say Pinehurst is the mecca of golf. When I think about Pinehurst #2, one image comes to mind: Payne Stewart’s clutch putt on the 18th hole to win the 1999 U.S. Open. That image alone makes me want to visit this course and reflect on the victory of one of my all-time favorite golfers. Much like Bandon Dunes, Pinehurst is a resort with all types of non-golf amenities, so maybe this is another trip I could talk the wife into taking with me. Call me an optimist.

Wolf Creek:

The photos of Wolf Creek make me drool like a ravaged animal. I was about to list TPC Sawgrass here. But after playing this course in the new Tiger Woods game, I checked it out online. And, wow, Wolf Creek is an absolutely stunning course. Can’t tell you much about the layout, the design…it could be tricked up and Mickey Mouse for all I know. But the photos of this course just blow me away. At #25 on Golf Digest’s list, the only drawback to Wolf Creek? It’s in Nevada. Ugh.

St. Andrews:

Do I need to explain? If I’m playing St. Andrews, then I’m also probably visiting Carnoustie, Turnberry, and all the rest. But if I have to pick one course in Scotland to play, then it’s where this lovely game started. I have this dream that Robert the Bruce, King of Scotland, once visited the grounds of St. Andrews long before the golf course existed. As a member of the Scottish Bruce clan, walking on the hallowed grounds of St. Andrews would be enough for this Bruce. But to play the course that Old Tom Morris once maintained? Count me in. This one will happen soon…hopefully within the next five years.

Prestwick:

Prestwick's first tee.

Prestwick's first tee. (Image: englishpointers/Flickr)

Until recently, I wasn’t much of a golf historian. But I’m currently reading Kevin Cook’s book, Tommy’s Honor, about Old Tom Morris and his son, Young Tom–who was literally the Tiger Woods of the nineteenth century (Expect a book review soon). The first British Open was held at Prestwick in 1860–twelve professional golfers (or “cracks” as they were known) participating. The course is also Old Tom’s first solo design. To this day, it’s a legendary track, and a sanctuary of golf.

Have you played any of the above courses? Some not worth visiting? Or should I place others on the list? Let me know your thoughts.

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