Friday, March 30, 2012

Round #9: Texas - Colonial Country Club

Fate brought me to the Colonial Country Club on Friday morning. My original quest to play the #1 course in Texas was thwarted when the Dallas National Golf Club would only allow guests who are accompanied by a member. That possibility was not in the cards since I do not know any members. I went in search of an alternative in northern Texas landed at the Colonial in nearby Fort Worth. 

Round: #9
Location: Fort Worth, TX
Golf Digest Best-In-State Rank: #4
Date: 16 Mar, tee off at 9:50 AM
Conditions: partly sunny, 12 MPH wind, 70 degrees
Yardage: 6,837
Lost balls: 0
Score: 85 on a par 70
Colonial Country Club was started in 1936 by Marvin Leonard, who had a keen interest in bringing bent grass greens to his hometown of Fort Worth. When his initial plans to install bent grass at an existing Fort Worth golf club failed, Leonard came up with his vision for the Colonial Golf Club. The vision became a reality in January 1936 when the club opened with approximately 100 members.
The Colonial is ranked #73 on Golf Digest’s list of the 100 greatest American golf courses. It has hosted PGA tournaments every year since 1946, making it the longest running PGA venue. The most noteworthy winner of Colonial’s tournament is the the late Ben Hogan, a person who’s name is synonymous with golf. The Fort Worth resident won it five times, earning Colonial the nickname "Hogan's Alley."  Inside the pro shop is an office filled with Ben Hogan artifacts memorializing his connection with the club.

Winners of past PGA events at Colonial: a "who's who" of legendary golf champions

Before Tiger Woods, before Arnold Palmer - Ben Hogan was the man to beat

Ben Hogan's office at Colonial Country Club

The practice range was empty when I showed up at 9:15 - - - it looked like I would be playing by myself for the third time in a row. After warming up, my arrival at the starter’s station was met by a member who jokingly asked if I had jumped the fence to get into the club. That was a a great start to a round of golf heightened by the companionship of two Colonial members: Glenn (the jokester) and Jim. When they are not playing golf, Glen owns a petroleum engineering firm and Jim is the owner of a men’s clothing store.

Jim & Glenn

The layout of Colonial was flat in comparison to many other course. A lack of changing elevations did not translate into “easy” golf. At 247 yards from the black tees, the 4th hole is the longest par 3 hole on the PGA tour. It has never had an ace (hole-in-one) recorded during tournament play. The 5th hole running along the Trinity River is regularly ranked among the most difficult holes in annual golf surveys.

555-yard par 5 hole #1 (view from approach shot from the fairway) 

468-yard par 4 hole #3 

 468-yard par 4 hole #5 (view from approach shot from the fairway)

181-yard par 3 hole #8 

383-yard par 4 hole #9 (view of approach shot over the bunkers and water hazard)

I played well on the front nine carding a 41. A higher score on the back nine resulted from a lack of concentration on my part since the back nine was equally challenging.

417-yard par 4 hole #12 (view of approach shot from the fairway) 

171-yard par 3 hole #13 

405-yard par 4 hole #18 (view of approach shot from the fairway)

The staff and members at Colonial provided me with a first class experience. Glenn even provided me with a copy of the book “Billy Boy” by Bud Shrake as a parting gift. He did succeed in taking $6 each off of Jim and me in a skins game; it was fun watching him drop in several birdie putts during the round.  

Travel to Texas

Our trip out of Louisiana to Fort Worth had a few interesting stops. Julie suggested stopping at a quilt shop in Alexandria that was on our route. We arrived too late - the shop had closed up 2-days earlier. I can only imagine the “Going out of Business” sales that Julie missed out on!

A “Cajun Trade” gift shop beckoned us to stop in Marksville. I think the decorative signs caught Julie’s eye. Where else can you find colored swirls, camo gloves, and plastic alligators adorning a store’s entrance?

Shopping in Marksville, MS

Cajun shopping at it's best!

Troy Landry and Bruce Mitchell from the “Swamp People” show live in the vicinity; their autographed pictures were for sale inside the store. I passed on the autographed pictures, but a few other items did provide a great opportunity to score early Christmas presents for the females in my family.

It was hard to pick just the right Christmas present!

A Yelp review lead us to one last stop in Shreveport for lunch. Herby K’s provided great atmosphere and food that was over-rated in the Yelp reviews. We sat on the patio where, I could not recall previously dining within 10-feet of a bathtub - - - luckily it’s intended purpose was not being served. You would expect to see a bar in Louisiana with New Orleans Saints and Louisiana State University memorabilia on the walls; it was surprising to see Iowa State Cyclones and Oklahoma State Sooners pennant flags hanging in the rafters. When the patio discussion turned to the subject of great hamburgers, we learned that our waitress considered the peanut butter & bacon hamburger she ate in New Orleans as the #1 choice on her list. It is always nice to find new ways to enjoy Skippy peanut butter! 

 Getting off the beaten path for lunch at Herby-K's

I know where you can find an antique claw-foot bathtub!

The Yelp review also warned us not to visit the rest rooms without a companion. Apparently the outside rest rooms are not well lit at night!

Just outside around the corner behind a red door - you can't miss it!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Round #8: Louisiana - Bluffs Country Club

It was almost the same story, different state when I showed up to play golf at the Bluffs in rural Louisiana. I arrived at 9 AM for a 10 AM tee time. Julie was wondering how long the round of golf would take since I had finished so quickly at Old Waverly. She did not  wonder for long as we pulled into an empty parking lot. The pro shop informed me only one other person was on the course, with no additional players scheduled before 12:30 PM. The range was closed so I teed off early for the 2nd day in a row.

Round: #8
Location: St, Francisville, LA
Golf Digest Best-In-State Rank: #1
Date: 14 Mar, tee off at 9:30 AM
Conditions: overcast skies, 2 MPH wind, 69 degrees
Yardage: 6,426
Lost balls: 1
Score: 85 on a par 72

It was hard to believe the Bluffs was the toughest golf course in Louisiana given it’s remote location. That belief quickly disappeared as I began to play.  The difficulty of play was increased by recent rain. A wet course means the ball will not roll forward after landing, and in some cases actually rolls backward from where it lands due to its rotational spin. The lack of roll makes a course play longer than normal, which is not advantageous for my skill level.

 367-yard par 4 hole #2 (view from 2nd shot in the fairway)

 132-yard par 3 hole #4

200-yard par 3 hole #8 (downhill shot with into the wind) 

492-yard par 5 hole #9 (view from green back toward tee)

The Bluffs was not maintained to the level of other courses I have been playing this year. The lack of maintenance was more than compensated for by blooming azalea’s, which really enhanced it’s appearance. Hitting the season for azaleas worked out well since this was the first course where Julie decided to ride along while I played.

381-yard par 4 hole #12 (view of green from fairway) 

190-yard par 3 hole #13 

498-yard par 5 hole #18 (view from tee at the split fairway) 

Hole #18 green

The sun had broken through when I finished the round bringing the temperature up to 80 degrees. I was glad to jump into an air conditioned car as we drove off to a quilt shop in Lafayette. We jumped off I-10 at Grosse Tete to grab a late lunch, just prior to the long bridge crossing over the Atchafalaya basin.  If any of you are fans of the show “Swamp People” on the History Channel, than you have seen the alligators inhabiting the largest swamp in America. No sooner had we pulled off of the road when we spotted the “Swamp Shop”. We had to stop for postcards. The store’s owner told us that Junior Edwards and his son, William, live nearby. I was tempted to take a break from golf and jump in their boat to hunt alligators, but the 30-day season does not open until 29 August.

Post cards or alligator heads for anyone???

We drove a different route back to St. Francisville from Lafayette. The road took us through New Roads, which we thought was just a new highway when we first heard the name of this little town. The Yelp app on my iPhone lead us to “Ma Mamas” for dinner. How can you not drop in for a meal at a place that includes a menu item called “Who Dat Pork Chop”.  Since there is no shortage of pork in Iowa, we enjoyed a 5-star dining experience of fish, shrimp, grits and broiled tomatoes. Yelp reviews have been extremely helpful in leading us to local dining spots we would have previously driven by.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Round #7: Mississippi - Old Waverly

The road out of Little Rock took us 90-miles north to Marshall Dry Goods in Batesville, an old warehouse that claims to carry 10,000 bolts of fabric. The side trips to quilt shops have added color to our trips, as they often take us down the roads less traveled. The next 160-miles took us across Arkansas with a pass through Memphis before stopping for the night at Tunica, Mississippi. The next day found us driving into Tupelo, where we stopped at Heirlooms Forever in lieu of a visit to the birthplace of Elvis Presley. The store’s owner provided us with advice on additional quilt shops in the area - so off we went.

I considered getting a haircut while Julie shopped - - - but they were closed.

We jumped onto the Natchez Trace Parkway heading south toward Ackerman. The Parkway is a 444-mile drive through 10,000 years of American history; it is the trail originally used by American Indians and settlers. Obviously we drove only a portion of the Parkway, but enough to enjoy the beauty of it’s tall pine forests and take note of numerous historical markers located along the road. As we approached our turn-off, a road sign indicated we were passing through an area devastated by a tornado in April 2011. We passed through a 10-mile area of trees that had been twisted, broken or flattened. After stopping at the quilt shop in Ackerman we drove the remainder of the 200-mile journey to West Point.

One condition of playing at the private Old Waverly golf club was that we stay on the property in one of their cottages. Our plan to enjoy a nice dinner in their clubhouse was snuffed upon learning the entire facility was closed on Monday. The Monday closure took on a new meaning when we arrived at the front gate where the night guard presented us with a room key. The front entry doors to each cottage were without latches, enabling free access to a common area. Our key locked one of the four bedrooms located off of the common area. The area was deathly quiet since only one other cottage had any occupants. The only people that could be seen or heard were scattered along the banks of the small lake trying to catch fish.

Old Waverly Cottage 

 Common area inside the cottage

View from the deck looking toward hole #10

The following morning, I called the pro shop to see if I could move up my 1 PM tee time.  I could have saved the phone call. I did not see another person golfing until I was on hole #8. 

Note: the only sign was above the pro shop - - - there were no signs at the property's entrance

Round: #7
Location: West Point, MS
Golf Digest Best-In-State Rank: #2
Date: 13 Mar, tee off at 8:50 AM
Conditions: overcast skies with occasional mist, 5 MPH wind, 64 degrees
Yardage: 6,496
Lost balls: 1
Score: 80 on a par 72
During the entire round, I only saw 4 other people golfing, a number that nearly equaled the number I saw fishing near the #17 green.

The croppies were biting!

As you can see from the score, the “golf gods” were with me again. I shot a 2-over par 38 on the front nine holes. 

339-yard par 4 hole #1 

160-yard par 3 hole #3 

180-yard par 3 hole #7

I did not find the water until a bad shot on hole #11 cost me a penalty. In spite of numerous sand traps, my shoes did not touch any until hole #13. The back nine was more challenging - - - although I did manage to birdie hole #16 after a 15’ putt dropped in for me. 

517-yard par 5 hole #10 (view from fairway before 2nd shot) 

408-yard par 4 hole #11 (view from the green toward tee box) 

499-yard par 4 hole #15 

388-yard par 4 hole #16 

181-yard par 3 hole #17 

385-yard par 4 hole #18

In spite of taking my time during the round, I was finished in 2-1/2 hours. The sun was starting to shine, the temperature had climbed to 71 degrees, and the local boys were starting to show up to play. I jumped in the car and we headed off down the road again before any quilt shops might close for the day.

Mama’s Quilt Shop
One reason to play golf a little earlier was to allow more time for our 300-mile drive to St. Francisville, Louisiana the same day. Julie started to think we had time to drop into one more shop along the route when I wrapped up the round before noon. Her desire to stop in Independence at Mama’s Quilt Shop was in question until she called ahead. “Mama” agreed to re-open her shop upon our arrival since she lived directly next door.
“Mama” was still in her shop when we pulled into the driveway shortly after 5 PM. While Julie shopped for fabric I struck up a conversation with “Mama’s” mama. The shop was located next to a pond on Catfish Farm Road, with evidence of several abandoned ponds within sight. “Mama’s” father operated 9 catfish ponds on the site for more than 20-years. He sold catfish by the pound to anyone who wanted to catch them from the bank with their own fishing pole. Upon his death, her mother began to watch over the operation. She operated it for several years until she grew tired of people trying to steal the fish; catching & tossing them into tall grass to be retrieved later when no one was watching. Although they quit raising catfish many years ago, people still knock on their door asking to fish. 

The view down Catfish Farm Road

"Mama's" house 

 Mama's Quilt Shop

Julie, Mama, & Mama's mama