Saturday, June 30, 2012

Round #34: Maine - Sugarloaf Golf Club

There is a 4-letter word that best describes the kind of day we had on Tuesday: R-A-I-N.  We drove back into New Hampshire from Vermont where we stayed overnight in Lancaster. It was raining the next day when we started a 120-mile drive to the town of Carrabassett Valley, Maine. The road took us through a scenic and remote area of the upper New England region.
Covered bridge in Groveton, New Hampshire

One interesting stop along the road was in Rangeley, Maine. The quilt shop was not as interesting to me as was the garden in the back. Apparently the property’s owner is a part-time plumber, musician and gardener. He created a unique piece of art for his garden that exemplified his talents using re-claimed brass drain pipes.
Threads Galore Quilt Shop

The back yard garden

Art is in the eye of the beholder

It was still raining when we arrived at the Sugarloaf Golf Club a few hours later. A check of the radar map in the pro shop indicated a very slight chance that the weather might clear temporarily (at least that is how an optimist would read the radar map!). We ate lunch at Sugarloaf in front of a wall of windows that provided a excellent view of the continuous rainfall. The rain just never stopped. 
It was now time to make a decision: to play or not to play. I was the first customer of the day to pay a greens fee at the Sugarloaf Golf Club.

Round: #34
Location: Carrabassett Valley, ME
Golf Digest Best-In-State Rank: #1
Date: 26 Jun, tee off at 12:30 PM
Conditions: steady rain, 2 MPH wind, 57 degrees
Yardage: 6,451
Lost balls: 3
Score: 82 on a par 72
The rain gear came out and I was ready to put my DryJoy golf shoes to the test. The pro shop directed me to the first tee where I started to play the round by myself under a light rain fall. My warm-up consisted of a couple of practice swings on the 1st tee box. The impact of spending several hours in a car followed by no warm-up was obvious on the golf course. I went 11-strokes over par through the first 7-holes including 2 triple bogeys. It was not a good start.
 406-yard par 4 hole #1 (view from the green back up the fairway)

 536-yard par 5 hole #2 (view from the rough)

190-yard par 3 hole #3

The course was in terrible condition. The fairways had patches of dead grass and dirt. It looked like they were in the middle of repairing some areas but had yet to lay the new sod. Putting on the greens was quite a challenge where irregularities in the grass made the ball roll very unpredictable. Sugarloaf was in the process of installing a new irrigation system which will hopefully address their problems. In spite of the poor playing conditions, things started to change for me on hole #8. The skies did not clear up or anything like that, but I was able to score my first par of the day. I followed up with two more pars on holes #9 and #10. I was on a roll.
 371-yard par 4 hole #7 (note the poor condition of the fairway)

 169-yard par 3 hole #8 (view from the green back toward the tee box)

278-yard par 4 hole #10
The cart path up to hole #11 took me over a mountain stream that showed one result of the continued rainfall. The cart path continued up a steep hill on top of which I was treated to both a gorgeous view and a daunting challenge. The 190-yard shot from an elevated tee box to a green far below would not be easy under any circumstances. I hit what looked like a good shot before returning back down the path and across the stream to the green. I discovered my ball 3-feet from the hole; I dropped the easy putt for a birdie. Apparently the “golf gods” showed up to give the “rain gods” some company. This sport will turn me into a Buddhist yet!

190-yard par 3 hole #11

It was like a switch had been flipped back on hole #8. I began to play par golf. The only problem I ran into was a single bogey on hole #16, which was offset by a long birdie putt on hole #18. I finished the back nine with a 1-under par score of 35. 
 514-yard par 5 hole #12

 370-yard par 4 hole #14 (view over the fairway bunker to the green)

170-yard par 3 hole #15

 Rain shelter behind the hole #15 tee box - they build them pretty stout in Maine

 The stream running in front of the hole #15 green and hole #16 tee box

381-yard par 4 hole #18 (view from the green back up the fairway)

While I was playing golf Julie drove off in search of moose sightings. Flashing lights and signs are posted on the road in areas where a cow & calf moose are living nearby. One such area was near the resort’s maintenance building. Julie parked near the building with a view of a small marsh land. Her patience was rewarded with a sighting of both the cow and the calf moose. I told her the moose we saw in New Hampshire were much more fashion conscious than what she had observed in in Maine.

Before the day ended, we drove to a hotel in Freeport and dropped into the L.L. Bean stores for some shopping. The L.L. Bean stores never close - just like the rain that never stops!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Round #33: Vermont - Okemo Valley Golf Club

The course I originally selected in Vermont was the Green Mountain National Golf Course in Killington, rated at #7 in Vermont by Golf Digest. When I contacted the course for a tee time, I was scheduled to play at 3:00 PM on Tuesday. The course was closed on Monday and I was unable to play on Tuesday until round 1 of the Killington Junior Golf Championship had concluded. No hotel rooms were available in Killington with 144 prospective champions in town so we booked a room 15-miles away in Rutland. We drove to Rutland from New Hampshire on Sunday evening where we awoke on Monday morning to rain showers in the area. The forecast called for continued rain through Tuesday; I became worried that the tournament would interfere with my ability to play Vermont and move onto Maine. After looking for an alternative and I changed to the Okemo Valley Golf Club, a short 25-mile drive from Rutland. 
 Okemo Valley pro shop

Okemo Valley club house

Okemo Valley ski runs

Okemo Valley had a tournament as well, but it was a 1-day 18-hole best-ball format sponsored by the local tavern in Ludlow. I was given a tee time 30-minutes following their 12:30 shot-gun start (they only had enough players to fill 12-holes). Julie dropped me off at the course, I warmed up, ate lunch and was preparing to go out when it started to rain - - - heavy rain with lightening to match. Julie was still in Ludlow when the rain started; she returned to Okemo Valley and picked me up. We dove off to find quilt shops  under a sky filled with lightening and clouds that promised more rain to follow.
By the time we arrived at the first shop the sun broke through, providing a ray of hope for playing golf. We returned to the course, I paid my greens fee, and teed off of #1 by myself. I fully expected to get wet sometime during the afternoon, but it was a chance I was willing to take.

Round: #33
Location: Ludlow, VT
Golf Digest Best-In-State Rank: #3
Date: 25 Jun, tee off at 2:30 PM
Conditions: cloudy, 3 MPH wind, 69 degrees
Yardage: 6,104
Lost balls: 1
Score: 81 on a par 70
The golf tournament had gone off late due to the rain. The couple I had been scheduled to tee off did not show up, as had almost every other sane person (the men in the tournament drank beer during the rain delay so their sanity would have been thusly influenced). The ranger stopped by on hole #2 and informed me of another single player ahead. I caught up to him on the 3rd holes where he was being held up by the best-ball competitors. We paired up.
 522-yard par 5 hole #2

 175-yard par 3 hole #4

 167-yard par 3 hole #6 (view from the green back toward the tee box)

 173-yard par 3 hole #8

347-yard par 4 hole #9

My playing partner for the remainder of the round was Jim Agostisi. He is an Italian boy from Queens, New York who now resides in Fairfield, Connecticut. Jim is married with two boys; a 16-year old who is working as a lifeguard for the summer and a 10-year old. The wife, the boys and two friends of the 10-year old son were all back at their RCI time-share condo. Jim was employed for 19-1/2 years as a fund manager for New York Life. When that portion of the business was phased out, he went to work as an independent financial advisor. Jim’s wife also worked in the financial consulting business until just last week when she turned in her resignation. I thought it sounded natural that she might begin working alongside Jim, but he assured me that was a recipe for divorce if they ever tried working together professionally. I took him at his word.
Jim standing on the 196-yard par 3 hole #17 tee box

Jim played golf at a fast pace, but we were not going anywhere with 12-holes filled with tournament players in front of us. The skies never did clear. When the thunder started on hole #6 I was ready to start reaching for my rain gear, but it moved on without dropping any rain on us.
 305-yard par 4 hole #10

 502-yard par 5 hole #11 (view of approach shot to the green from the rough)

 371-yard par 4 hole #12 (view from the fairway back toward the tee box) 

View from the hole #12 green back up the fairway

The course was in excellent shape with some challenging holes. Although we did occasionally wait for the group in front of us, a relaxed pace of play and pleasant conversation made the round pass by quickly.
 205-yard par 3 hole #14

435-yard par 4 hole #16 (view of the green from the left rough)
In spite of radar maps that showed rain coming at us and skies that always looked threatening, we finished the 18-holes under dry conditions.  A heavy shower did hit a few miles away where Julie was shopping. Julie & I drove into rain shortly after leaving the course on the road north into New Hampshire.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Round #32: New Hampshire - Shattuck Golf Club

Along the road to the Shattuck Golf Club an intriguing road sign caught our attention. How can you not drive down the “First Tavern Road” to see if there is indeed such an old, historic building? Unfortunately, we only found private homes. It was a little early to start drinking anyway, so we continued on to the course. 

To say that the course at the Shattuck Golf Club was rough would be a huge understatement. It appeared as if they started to carve this course out of the foothills of Mount Monadnock in the southern New Hampshire wilderness and the bulldozers quit work a year too early on the project. The cart paths were on the verge of being too rough for golf carts; 4-wheel drive All-Terrain-Vehicles would have been a more fitting match for the steep & bumpy terrain. The course was very daunting with narrow, twisting fairways bordered by forested areas, and marsh land. There were blind shots on virtually every hole except the par 3’s. To make it even worse, I played the round with two guys from Hudson, New Hampshire who had just walked onto the course for the first time that morning.

Round: #32
Location: Jaffrey, NH
Golf Digest Best-In-State Rank: #9
Date: 24 Jun, tee off at 9:40 AM
Conditions: sunny, 4 MPH wind, 78 degrees
Yardage: 6,077
Lost balls: 9
Score: 86 on a par 71
My playing partners drove an hour from Hudson to enjoy playing a different golf course. As I walked up to the first tee box, they were discussing the slope rating of 141 from the blue tees, which played at a short 6,077 yards. The slope rating of a golf course is a measure of it’s difficulty. My current USGA handicap is a 9 so I would be expected to shoot 72+9=81 on an average course. The slope rating of 141 increases my handicap for the par 71 course at Shattuck to an 11; so I would be expected to shoot 71+11=82. In my opinion, they should develop a new rating system that takes into account the number of lost balls!
 343-yard par 4 hole #3

312-yard par 4 hole #4

551-yard par 5 hole #5

View of the hole #5 green

373-yard par 4 hole #8 (view of approach shot to the green from the fairway)

My two playing partners were buddies traveled 1-hour that morning to Jaffrey just to play a different course; both of them were named Chris. “Chef” Chris Cowen is a chef at the Legal Sea Foods restaurant in downtown Boston on the water front. He started working for the company at the age of 16 while continuing his formal education. With an associates degree in food service management and a BS degree in culinary arts from Johnson & Wales, Chris is well qualified for his chosen profession. He has a girl friend who worked in the spa industry.  
The other member of our group was “Big” Chris Chadwick. He is employed as a district sales manager with AT&T. He pursued a career in the navy until a knee injury changed his direction. He has a degree from the University of Southern New Hampshire. Big Chris has been married for 13-years; his wife is an attorney who litigates cases in the medical field. One of her clients is John Deere, who she represents on claims related to asbestos exposure. 
Big Chris & Chef Chris

Chef Chris was a 7-handicap player who, like myself, had his share of problems keeping the ball in play. I can not recall when I have lost as many balls during a round of golf. My score would have been much higher had it not been for some great chip shots; I was able to 1-putt several holes to save bogey following an out-of bounds shot and 1-stroke penalty. Big Chris did not fare quite as well. He continually hit his ball out-of-bounds throughout the round. At one point he joked that it was a good thing he had stopped at Dick’s Sporting Goods the previous day to buy golf balls; even than he was very close to running out before we reached the 18th hole. I threw him a ball on the hole#12 green that was swimming with the fish a minute later. 
 155-yard par 3 hole #12

 View from the hole #12 green back toward the tee box

 303-yard par 4 hole #13

121-yard par 3 hole #14

 508-yard par 5 hole #15

 367-yard par 4 hole #16

313-yard par 4 hole #17 (view from the green back up the fairway)

Although I am not sure I would want to play the Shattuck course every day, it certainly provided me with a memorable and humbling experience.