Sunday, April 29, 2012

Round #18: Virginia - Kinloch Golf Club

As it’s name implies, Kinloch is a golf club. That is the only purpose they attempt to serve - and they do it extremely well. When the course was being developed, the decision was made to keep the area surrounding the course natural. The plans for housing development were scaled back accordingly. Emphasis was placed on making Kinloch a premier golf club. They exceeded in accomplishing their goal. 
Access through the locked entrance gate was enabled through an intercom system. The staff were focused on providing everyone with an excellent golf experience. I was ready to enjoy!

Clubhouse and chipping area for warm-up

Round: #18
Location: Manakin-Sabot, Virginia
Golf Digest Best-In-State Rank: #1
Date: 24 Apr, tee off at 10:00 AM
Conditions: sunny skies, 12 MPH wind, 50 degrees
Yardage: 6,405
Lost balls: 1
Score: 89 on a par 72
A par on the first hole gave me a good start on the round. With two more pars and four bogeys through the first 7-holes it looked like I might score fairly well in spite of the difficulty of the course. Than the wheels fell off with triple bogeys on holes 8 and 9. I like a course that penalizes the player for poor shots. Kinloch had started to dish out my punishment in large servings!
 340-yard par 4 hole #2

523-yard par 5 hole #3 (view from the green back up the fairway) 

310-yard par 4 hole #4 

165-yard par 3 hole #5 

407-yard par 4 hole #8 (the rough gave me plenty of trouble) 

540-yard par 5 hole #9 (hit into the rough and lost a ball in the marshy area at the bottom of the fairway)

I was very pleased to join a threesome for the round. Ken Bartee is a member at Kinloch, even though he had to drive 2-hours from Fairfax to get to the club. Ken owned a software development business that he sold a few years ago. In addition to sitting on the James Madison University advisory board, he acts as a very gracious host on the golf course. The other two members of our group were Ken’s guests from Woodbridge, a 1-hour drive from the club. Keith Black managed a boat marina on the Potomac River. The marina stores has 400-boats that are pulled out and lower into the water when the owners are ready to go boating. Ken was formerly employed by Keith as a gas attendant on the docks (he did much better financially with software!). Ken’s second guest was Mike Hart. Mike also managed a boat marina on the Potomac river with 150 boats, ranging in size from 20’ to 45’ in length. 
Caddy Caulin, Keith, Ken, Caddy Henry, & Mike

Our two young caddies were Henry and Caulin. Henry is married with 11-years of experience at Kinloch. He has worked as an assistant golf professional, in the food & beverage service and as a caddy. He best enjoys being a caddy and said the money is better than the assistant pro position. Caulin is 25-years old with a 9-year relationship with his girl friend. Both Henry and I gave him a hard time about his inability to step up and ask her to marry him. He said that day was coming; I was not quite sure. 
When I was not teasing Caulin, I was trying to avoid any more triple bogeys on the back nine. There were plenty of opportunities to get into trouble, which I did on two holes when I double bogeyed. This was one of the first rounds of golf I have played with men who have shot a lower score than me. Keith & Mike were playing from the back tees, which means they added XXX yards in length to their game. They could hit much longer tee shots which enabled them to score well. Mike finished the round with a score of 76, after carding birdies on several holes. Keep in mind that he & Keith were playing from the gold tee boxes which added 400-yards in distance to their game over what I was playing. It was fun to watch him play. 

405-yard par 4 hole #10 

520-yard par 5 hole #13 (view of 2nd shot from the fairway) 

130-yard par 3 hole #14 

300-yard par 4 hole #15 (view of 2nd shot from the fairway - short par 4 but not an easy hole) 

390-yard par 4 hole #16 

377-yard par 4 Hole #18

As you could tell from the pictures above, no homes were built around the course. The only homes visible were were located across the small lake from the 18th green. Ken stated that each hole on the course looked different and provided varying challenges to the player. He was right!

View from the hole 18 green (homes on the left, clubhouse to the right)

We drove out of Virginia into Maryland where the Washington, D.C. traffic greeted our arrival. Our nephew Joseph Triplett works in Washington and was able to join us for dinner. His job entails overseas travel to places most Americans would never venture unless under military orders. Joseph described his most recent trip to Pakistan in a very calm, matter-of-fact manner over dinner. As much as Julie & I have traveled, I doubt if we will ever add Pakistan to our must-see destinations. Naturally our dinner conversation eventually turned to politics. Joseph is following the political developments with interest as you might expect from someone living in Washington. We both noticed how much he lit up when the conversation turned to the topic of sports. Joseph really likes his sports - and he follows a wide variety including the World Cup in soccer. I suspect he will be adding cricket to his interests if he keeps traveling to Pakistan. We left thinking he better pick out a woman to marry who shares his interest in sports, they would not need a remote control for their TV as the channel would never be changed from ESPN.

Stalled in D.C. traffic 

Joseph & Julie

Round #17: North Carolina - Pinehurst #2

Rain moved into Pinehurst overnight. Playing golf looked very doubtful as it continued raining throughout the morning, yet I remained optimistic about my 12:30 tee time. My luck changed at 11:30 AM when it stopped raining. That was enough for me to head to the golf course in spite of a forecast for continued showers.
Pinehurst is historically linked to Payne Stewart. He was a very colorful professional golfer who’s outlandish plus-fours, tam and elegant outfits made him unmistakable on the course. "My father always said the easiest way to set yourself apart in a crowd is the way you dress," said Stewart.
Stewart began playing golf at age four, learning from his father, Bill, a former Missouri State Amateur champion. In 1982, Stewart finally earned his PGA Tour card and won his first of 11 tour events at the Quad Cities Open with his father in the gallery. The victory was a milestone in his career, but grew in importance when it turned out to be the only time his father would see him win. Bill Stewart died of cancer in 1985. (Side note: the Quad Cities Open began in 1972 at Crow Valley Golf Club where I am now a member. The tournament moved across town to the Oakwood Country Club in 1975, the course where Payne won on in 1982. The tournament moved again in 2000 to Deere Run TPC and is now known as the John Deere Classic.)
Payne died in a tragic plane crash 4-months after winning the 1999 U.S. Open on the Pinehurst #2 course. At the time of his death, he was ranked third on the all-time money list and in the top 10 of the World Golf Rankings. In his honor, the flag pin is placed in the same location each Sunday as it was when he sank the winning putt. A statue at the 18th green captures the jubilance he displayed on that memorable afternoon.

The Payne Stewart statue at Pinehurst

The first time I played the course was in 2002 as we drove back to Iowa from Kiawah Island. The course had wide open fairways lined with tall fir trees on either side. The course was relatively easy to play, until I tried to putt the greens. The rolling terrain and speed of the greens caused me to miss a lot of putts. At times the ball would roll past the hole, off the green and back into the fairway.
This was a new Pinehurst. The natural & strategic characteristics of the original Donald Ross design were restored, based upon aerial images of the course from the 1940s.
The project was completed in 2011. It included the removal of 35 acres of turf (30% of the grass covered fairways & roughs). Hardpan, natural bunker edges and native wire grasses were reintroduced in place of the grass.

Green side bunker on hole #6 

Fairway bunker on hole #7

Green side bunker on hole #8
Round: #17
Location: Pinehurst, North Carolina
Golf Digest Best-In-State Rank: #2
Date: 22 Apr, tee off at 12:30 PM
Conditions: overcast with occasional spitting rain, 8 MPH wind, 58 degrees
Yardage: 6,307
Lost balls: 0
Score: 89 on a par 72
The front nine proved difficult - - - no pars with 4 doubles resulted in a score of 49. The new bunkers were grabbing my ball and not allowing me to come out of them easily. The greens remained difficult as always to putt. My game was being helped by an excellent caddy but that was not evident from the scorecard. 

411-yard par 4 hole #2 

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

178-yard par 3 hole #6 

148-yard par 3 hole #9

My playing partners were fresh from a multi-day golf school at Pinehurst. Mike lived in New Hampshire and worked for Silicon Valley Bank. Justin and Mark were both from Phoenix, where Justin works as an air conditioning contractor. Mark was currently unemployed after leaving his last assignment as an associate pastor. In that capacity he visited Africa and Haiti performing missionary work focused on orphaned children. Both Justin and Mark had adopted an orphan child into their families. All of them seemed to be struggling with their games; I shot a lower score than any of the group with no schooling. 

Caddy Joe, Justin, Mark, Mike & Caddy Colin

It did spit rain on us during the round but not enough to pull out any rain gear. For no apparent reason my game fell into place with three straight pars following a bogey on hole #10. I finished the back nine with two more pars and a score of 40.

358-yard par 4 hole #13 (view of approach shot from the fairway)

 478-yard par 5 hole #16
 View of approach shot to the green on hole #16

162-yard par 3 hole #17 

366-yard par 4 hole #18 

View of approach shot to the green on hole #18

Both of the caddies I played with in Kiawah were very knowledgeable of the course. We played with two caddies at Pinehurst. Joe was in the same A+ category, with over 20-years of caddy experience on Pinehurst #2. He was married with two daughters. Colin was our 2nd caddy. He was not in the same league with Joe. Colin’s 83-year old father still worked 30-hours/week as a maintenance welder at the Pinehurst resort. His mother had passed away. She was 13-years older than his father with 9-children from her first marriage. After their marriage, they had 2-children; Colin and one daughter.
Sunday April 22 marked the start of the 17th week of 2012. Playing Pinehurst in North Carolina marked the 17th state I have played in. My goal remains attainable.
The rain kicked in again 30-minutes after I walked off of the course.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Round #16: South Carolina - Kiawah Island: Ocean Course

The road to the Kiawah Island Golf Resort is everything you would expect from the South. Spanish moss draped trees line the 2-lane highway, creating a shaded canopy under which you drive down the road. The traffic is very light in the off-season making the journey even more enjoyable. We first visited in 2002 when our daughter, Jill, was working at the Kiawah Island Resort. Jill and I played golf on the island at a much easier course. This trip would prove to be much more challenging. The Ocean course is ranked 25th on Golf Digest’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses in the USA; it ranks at 4th place on their Best Public Course List.
The Ocean course at Kiawah Island will host the 2012 PGA Championships during the 2nd week of August, making it only the 4th course to host each of the PGA's major championships in America. The Ocean course has more seaside holes than any other course in the Northern Hemisphere - 10 right along the Atlantic with the other 8 running parallel to those. Probably no other golf course in the world outside of the United Kingdom and Ireland is affected as much by the wind. From one round to the next, a player can experience up to an 8-club difference on holes depending upon the direction and strength of the wind. 
Built in 1991 by Pete Dye, there are no prevailing winds on the course. Dye took this into account when designing the course. In fact, he designed two courses into one – one for an easterly wind and one for a westerly wind. Although it was originally designed to sit behind the dunes, Dye's wife, Alice, suggested raising the entire course to allow players unobstructed views of the beautiful Atlantic coastline from every hole. This improved view made the course substantially more demanding as it also exposed it to the area’s brisk and unpredictable sea breezes. 

The Ocean Course clubhouse

Round: #16
Location: Kiawah Island, South Carolina
Golf Digest Best-In-State Rank: #1
Date: 20 Apr, tee off at 12:20 PM
Conditions: sunny, 15 MPH wind, 72 degrees
Yardage: 6,779
Lost balls: 5
Score: 92 on a par 72
The Ocean course is a walking only course. I was paired up with a group from Los Angeles, California along with two caddies who carried the bags and provided guidance on our shots. A good caddy’s advice is very helpful - and we had top notch caddies who knew the course extremely well.  However, the player who must still execute the shot; that part of the game does not always fall into place. We began our round playing into a stiff wind. My tee shots were pulling left - - - while straight was the only direction where one could avoid problems. I oftentimes landed in the “waste” bunkers with long shots to the green over occasional obstructions. Several balls could not be found making my score even that much higher. (Note: waste bunkers are sandy areas that are left natural. They may have the rough or fairway grass bordering them, but not completely around the perimeter.)

 185-yard par 3 hole #5

415-yard par 4 hole #9 

View of waste trap along hole #10 fairway 

 View of waste traps along hole #11 fairway

 View of waste traps in front of  hole #11 green

View of waste traps along hole #18 fairway

The threesome I was grouped with included Walter (father), Kevin (son), and Rob (son-in-law). Walter was a former trauma surgeon who retired at the age of 44. After several years of playing Mr. Mom and lots of golf, he started up a fitness and sports performance center. Kevin works in the business; Rob worked in the real estate and fitness businesses. Some of their clients include professional athletes. Walter’s family had rented a house on the island not far from the Ocean course. The men had been playing golf almost every day while the women entertained themselves. I suspect some of their entertainment involved playing with and holding Rob’s 1-year old daughter.

Caddy Amory, Rob, Walter, Kevin, Caddy Joe

375-yard par 4 hole #1 

528-yard par 5 hole #2 

367-yard par 4 hole #3

My game eventually improved during the round. I carded 5-pars after leaving two birdie putts short of the hole. It is difficult to post a low score with two triple bogeys and three double bogeys on the card. I found playing into the wind on the front 9 very hazardous, I began to play much better after we turned to begin playing downwind. We did turn back into the wind to complete the round. Caddy Joe was quite surprised when I hit the greens in regulation on the last three holes, but 3-putted all of them for bogeys.

 170-yard par 3 hole #8

521-yard par 5 hole #11 

371-yard par 4 hole #13 

 171-yard par 3 hole #14

197-yard par 3 hole #17

The front nine holes play away from the clubhouse with nothing but the ocean and natural shoreline within view. Several large homes were visible along the back nine, separated from the course by swamp land. Caddy Joe helped define “large” when he pointed out one home that contained 10,000 square feet of living space with another 2,500 square foot enclosed swimming pool. After learning I retired from John Deere, Joe also pointed out a house that has been under construction for the past two years. It is being built for Sam Allen, a gentleman I worked alongside at the JD Davenport Works 24-years ago. Sam is the current Chairman of the Board of Directors for John Deere. I just play golf!

 View of homes from hole #10 fairway (house on the right has 10,000 square feet)

View of the neighborhood from hole #10 green

There was more than one reason my round of golf did not start out very well. My scheduled 1:50 PM tee time was at risk of being rained on according to the morning weather forecast.  After calling the pro shop, I learned the only other available time slot was a 12:20 tee time. I departed the North Charleston hotel in a hurry, expecting to arrive at the course within 45-minutes. Unfortunately, the address listed for the golf course was the hotel’s address. The extra time required to reach the course caused me to arrive at 12:10 PM. I rushed through the check-in and joined three other players as they were leaving the practice range. 

A visitor catching some sun along the hole #17 pond

The earlier tee time would allow me to miss the threatening weather. It also would provide Julie & I with the time required to dine at Jestine’s Kitchen in downtown Charleston that evening. The daughter of a Native American and a black slave, Jestine Matthews was employed as a housekeeper by the Aleck Ellison family in 1928. The small restaurant was named in her honor by Aleck’s granddaughter and restaurant owner, Shera Berlin. The restaurant strives to provide the same style of home cooking and warm atmosphere Jestine provided to the Ellison family for several generations. While they excel at meeting those goals, the real reason to visit Jestine’s is the warm Coca-Cola cake with a whipped cream topping. Before ordering dinner I asked the waiter to reserve my dessert. I did think of eating my dessert first, but held off until after the dinner plates were cleared from the table.