Monday, May 5, 2014

The Promised Land - Part 3

I need to put a bow on this Pine Valley tale but I'm not really sure where to go with it because I make a lousy golf course critic as my rating criteria for a round of golf goes something like this (in order): (1) Am I playing for something worthwhile, preferably the opportunity to get my name on a board or plaque located in a locker room, pro shop or bar for perpetuity? (1)(a) Do I like the people with whom I am playing? (This was (2) until last year when the people with whom I was playing sucked so much of the life out of my game that it ruined my shot at getting my name on a new board somewhere so it has been elevated to (1)(a) status). (3) Are the greens and fairways in premium condition? (Because I don't care if I'm playing Pebble Beach - if the greens are bumpy, it's not going to be fun). (4) Is it a "great" golf course?

For the purpose of discussion, let's say that any course that's been ranked in the Golf Digest Top 100 multiple times is by definition "great." That's a lot of courses and I have only played seven of them* so maybe I just don't have enough perspective on the matter but one of those seven is my home course which I've played at least 100 times while two of the others I've played a half dozen times each over the last three years and I can't definitively tell you that I like one more than the other. I guess I'm just not a connoisseur ($7 bottle of Pinot Grigio anyone?).**

And this leads me to Pine Valley which is the "greatest" course I've ever played by the numbers and it certainly did not disappoint because it is spectacular. If I was going to boil it down to just a couple of words it would be "natural" and "varied." Nothing feels the least bit manufactured which is aided by the fact that it's a self-contained oasis. It has to be one the most perfect pieces of non-coastal land on which anyone has ever built a course and I'm not sure I hit every club into a green, but I know I used a 3-wood, 5-wood, sand wedge, lob wedge (to five feet for my lone birdie) and a lot of clubs in between (though it should be noted that the FGR is no Dalai Lama when it comes to distance). There were simply no letdown holes from a challenge or enjoyment standpoint.

I know I parred this sucker from
  about 215 with a shot I wouldn't
want to have to hit over again.
By the time we were done I had scraped-out a 78 thanks to hitting eleven or twelve fairways*** but no thanks to the fact that I didn't make any putts. I blame my caddie who had just driven-up from Medalist the day before and apparently didn't have his "A" game back.**** (When in doubt, blame the caddie, right Bubba?) So if I was to rate my first Pine Valley experience, it would look something like this:

(1) Competition: C (I think we played a $10 Nassau)
(2) People: A (Good dudes . . . many laughs)
(3) Conditions: B+ (Greens showed signs of being aerated)
(4) Course: A+ (Hey, it was Pine Freakin' Valley

When you throw-in the fact that we had perfect weather, I got to sit in the backseat and pound beers while someone else drove and I made it back for my previously planned evening festivities to stay in the good graces of the old lady, it was an A+ afternoon.


* Back in the summer of 1999 I was unemployed after walking-out on my first lawyer gig which involved working for a guy who regularly put in 90 hour weeks and expected me to do the same when I was being paid for roughly a 27 hour week. After eleven months of trying to make that doomed marriage work, I walked into the managing partner's office and said, "homey don't play that." Three weeks later I was teeing off at National Golf Links in Southampton, N.Y. (No. 11 on the Golf Digest list) with my former college roommate and his buddy who was the best player I had ever met (I think he shot 70) so I was feeling pretty good about my decision. Cut to a fateful Tuesday afternoon in December when I was working as a delivery driver to pay the mortgage and found myself taking a two hour lunchbreak in a movie theater with two other lost souls watching Fight Club. Let's just say that when Fight Club speaks to you as a completely viable career path, it's time to start setting the alarm clock again and showering everyday.          

"We should totally start
blowing shit up."
** Also completely lost on me: art galleries, opera and the color of walls. You could put me in a room by myself for five hours and then ask me what color it was and I would have no idea. Suffice it to say that I am a useless resource when the FGW consults me on paint colors but it doesn't stop her from asking me . . . God freakin' love her.

*** I caught a pretty good buzz as the staff was very accommodating with the beverages so some of the specifics escape me but I do know that I played the same ball all day and didn't make any big numbers.

**** Or it may have had something to do with the fact that on about the fifth hole I needed a club and yelled "Stan . . . Stan . . . STAN!" before my partner reminded me that our caddie's name was "Randy."

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