Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Round #31: Massachusetts - TPC Boston

The contrast in driving up to the TPC Boston clubhouse after having played at the  Newport National Golf Club one day previously was quite striking. A large, beautiful clubhouse was surrounded by well-maintained flowers and landscaping. The roads and parking lot were paved - - - no dusty, gravel lots. The practice facilities were first class: driving range, chipping green, sand traps, and large putting greens. Several staff members attended to the clubs, carts and the practice facilities. Julie dropped me off early to provide her with ample time for quilt shopping on nearby Cape Cod (if you consider a 1-hour drive to be near-by!). 
Originally designed by Arnold Palmer, with renovations in 2007 by Gil Hanse, TPC Boston was named by Golf Digest among the “Top 10 Best New Private Clubs in the U.S.” when it debuted in 2002. The club hosts the annual Deutsche Bank Championship, one of only four PGA Tour Playoff events for the FedExCup. Previous winners of the tournament include Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Vijay Singh, and Steve Stricker. Steve seems to do quite well on TPC courses, having won the John Deere Classic tournament the last 3-years running at the TPC Deere Run course.  

Round: #31
Location: Norton, MA
Golf Digest Best-In-State Rank: #10
Date: 23 Jun, tee off at 3:00 PM
Conditions: partly cloudy, 5 MPH wind, 81 degrees
Yardage: 6,442
Lost balls: 1
Score: 81 on a par 72
In spite of my early arrival, the club had guest rules that the staff was strictly adhering to. Unaccompanied guests and TPC passport holders (members from other TPC clubs) were not allowed to play until 3:00 PM. In spite of any potential to be thrown in with an earlier group, I was sent out at 3 PM with two passport holders. It became quite obvious that playing TPC Boston was worth the wait once we started the round. 
 339-yard par 4 hole #1 (view of approach shot to the green from the fairway)

506-yard par 5 hole #2 (view of approach shot to the green from the fairway) 

 254-yard par 4 hole #4 (view of the green)

 375-yard par 4 hole #5 (view of approach shot to the green from the fairway)

505-yard par 5 hole #7 (view of approach shot to the green from the fairway)

Both of the men I played with were from the Washington, DC area. Albert Lee is an economist who had traveled to Boston to attend a conference starting on Monday. Although he works in the private sector, his customers are U.S. government agencies who contract with him. He was born in Hong Kong but grew up in New York City after his parents immigrated from China. Mark Cottrell was the other member of our group. Mark was just taking a short holiday to play golf in the Boston area with his friend and golfing partner. Both men are members of the TPC Potomac at Avenal Farm club in the Washington area. Mark is a tax attorney employed by the U.S Treasury Department. He was born in Buffalo, New York.
We were accompanied on the round by a fore caddy named Windsor. He began working at the course 3-weeks ago after his recent graduation from Northeastern University where he majored in business and political science. While discussing Albert’s Chinese heritage, Windsor shared with us that his father was of Chinese descent and had also been born in Hong Kong. That was a surprise since he did not look Chinese at all, he must take after his mother in that respect. Windsor was the polar opposite of Tyler, the fore caddy who accompanied me I at Mystic Rock in Pennsylvania. Where Tyler moped around the course in a depressed mood, Windsor was happy to be helping us as he literally jogged the entire course. He ran ahead of us when we went up to a tee box and would find the balls and inform us of the remaining distance to the green when we rolled up on the golf carts. Although he could not insert himself into our conversations, I did it for him since his ambition was to work in the policy making arm of the government. It was too much of an opportunity not to get him into a conversation with Albert and Mark regarding his future career.
 Windsor jogging ahead up the fairway

Albert, Windsor & Mark

It was interesting to watch Albert prepare for his shot on the tee box. He was very methodical in his approach, perhaps it was the influence of his training as an economist. One element of his approach was to use the head of his club to measure the height of the tee before placing the ball on top of it for the shot.
Albert measuring the height of his tee 
Our golf round started out under ideal weather conditions. The threat of an afternoon thunderstorm appeared ready to dampen the round on hole #13 when the winds picked up with dark clouds headed our way. At one point the storm front completely surrounded us with the exception of blue skies directly overhead. I thought we had a 100% chance of getting wet before we finished playing but the rain never fell.
 185-yard par 3 hole #11

 369-yard par 4 hole #13

 495-yard par 5 hole #14 (view of approach shot to the green from the fairway)

 144-yard par 3 hole #16

502-yard par 5 hole #18 (view of approach shot to the green from the rough)

One interesting feature on the course was a mound on the 17th green; it looked like someone dropped 2-cubic yards of dirt by mistake in the middle of the green and forgot to smooth it out before planting grass seed. Naturally, my approach shot landed on the green with the mound directly between my ball and the hole. It was virtually impossible to par the hole since the ball gained tremendous speed on the downside of the mound; making an easy 2-putt par into a 3-putt bogey for me. According to Windsor, 2-time Deutsche Bank Champion Vijay Singh also hates the mound on the #17 green with a passion.
 389-yard par 4 hole #17 (view of approach shot to the green from the fairway)

 The "mound" on the 17th green (the picture does not do it justice!)

We drove into New Hampshire after leaving the Boston area. The hour was growing late when we approached New Bedford. We were not sure where or if we would eat any dinner until we drove by the Homestead Restaurant. We have been relying reviews from the Yelp iPhone app to find good restaurants, but a quick U-turn in the car can sometimes be just as effective.
The Homestead Restaurant occupies a barn built in 1790 on a property that was a working farm for almost as many years. The building was renovated by Mark McDonough and his brothers, who have previously renovated five historic homes and buildings in New Hampshire. Refurbishment of the barn & silo was a little tricky, given that the old building was showing its age: worn out red paint, sloping floors, and a leaning silo that resembled the Leaning Tower of Pisa. The renovation succeeded in creating great atmosphere for the restaurant and tavern; the kitchen staff made it a great place to enjoy broiled haddock, loaded baked potato, and creme brûlée. 
 Homestead Restaurant & Tavern

View of the old hay loft (the new tavern)

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