Ohio in 50 Features: Sleepy Hollow Golf Course and The Forgotten Abyss

Ranking the courses in any region—especially one as golf -rich as Ohio—is very much grasping at pins. Selecting a feature—a green, a bunker, a creek, even a dip in the fairway—that best defines those courses is an even more subjective exercise…which is of course why we’re doing it. Ohio in 50 Features” aims to highlight the Top 50 courses in the Buckeye State and focus on one key element at the course that gives a greater representation of the the club’s style, its architect, its history, and—hopefully—some fodder for you to check it out when you’re in the region. Our first entry is a  worthwhile municipal offering in the Greater Cleveland / Akron areas, Sleepy Hollow Golf Course.

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Tillinghast Templates Part 2/4: The Tiny Tim (Bedford Springs, Baltusrol, and More)

“I have known Charley Macdonald since the earliest days of golf in this country and for many years we have been rival course architects, and I really mean rivals for in many instances we widely disagreed. Our matter of designing courses never reconciled. I stubbornly insisted on following natural suggestions of terrain, creating new types of holes as suggested by Nature, even when resorting to artificial methods of construction. Charley, equally convinced that working strictly to models was best, turned out some famous courses. Throughout the years we argued good-naturedly about it.”

If you were to take A.W. Tillinghast’s word for it, the Golden Age of Golf Course Architecture was broken into two camps: those using templates, and those going without. There’s a kernel of truth to this…and plenty untrue as well. Tillie, for all his hay about the “natural suggestions of terrain,” frequently turned to templates. Tillinghast went as far as developing his own portfolio of templates. There are four, and this series will shed some light on these “lesser templates,” typically ignored in today’s conversations on the subject of designed holes.

The first is the most frequented of Tillie’s templates, but rarely receives recognition as being just that…a “template.” The reason may be the huge variety present across this template’s history; Macdonald and Raynor always incorporated some degree of ingenuity into their own templates, but Tillinghast’s variance in this concept may fool some into not recognizing it as a template at all. And MacRaynor’s use of a similar (yet distinct!) concept doesn’t help Tillie’s cause.

And so today we look at the Tiny Tim. Continue reading “Tillinghast Templates Part 2/4: The Tiny Tim (Bedford Springs, Baltusrol, and More)” »

The Appalachian Golf Trail: Pack Some Clubs & Play These Notables Along America’s Best Hike

Your correspondent is not keen on golf trails. Part of it is that there simply isn’t a golf trail that particularly appeals to me. I’d be willing to play a round or two on the Robert Trent Jones trail in Alabama, but simply don’t have that much interest in RTJ to justify a week of vacation. Heck, Pete Dye is my personal favorite architect and his trail is right next door in Indiana, and I’ve barely given it a thought (to be fair, the cherry on that six-course trip is French Lick, which costs more than the rest combined). Don’t let me dissuade you from seeking one out, however.

The second, more prickly reason for disliking golf trails: I’m a hiker and they’re not “trails.” You don’t walk from course to course (don’t judge me…I’ve heard what you say about non-links courses that have “links” in the name).

Accordingly, I’ve crafted The Appalachian Golf Trail, bringing together every noteworthy golf course falling within 5(ish) miles of The Appalachian Trail. If you’re ready to pack a change of clothes and a few clubs (or rent) for the 2,200 mile hike from Maine down to Georgia, you can add an extra badge to an already impressive accomplishment.

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Tillinghast Templates Part 1/4: The Great Hazard (Pine Valley, Bethpage Black, and More)

“I have known Charley Macdonald since the earliest days of golf in this country and for many years we have been rival course architects, and I really mean rivals for in many instances we widely disagreed. Our matter of designing courses never reconciled. I stubbornly insisted on following natural suggestions of terrain, creating new types of holes as suggested by Nature, even when resorting to artificial methods of construction. Charley, equally convinced that working strictly to models was best, turned out some famous courses. Throughout the years we argued good-naturedly about it.”

If you were to take A.W. Tillinghast’s word for it, the Golden Age of Golf Course Architecture was broken into two camps: those using templates, and those going without. There’s a kernel of truth to this…and plenty untrue as well. Tillie, for all his hay about the “natural suggestions of terrain,” frequently turned to templates. Tillinghast went as far as developing his own portfolio of templates. There are four, and this series will shed some light on these “lesser templates,” typically ignored in today’s conversations on the subject of designed holes.

The first has not actually been ignored at all, if we’re being honest. In fact, it’s quite popular. The Great Hazard is a rarity…a recognized Tillie template.
Continue reading “Tillinghast Templates Part 1/4: The Great Hazard (Pine Valley, Bethpage Black, and More)” »

Textualism, Pragmatism, and Capes: Can The Meaning of A Template Evolve Post-Macdonald?

Last week, your correspondent took some liberties with word choice in the name of Twitter character count and, in the process, invoked rebuttals from two members of the online golf architectural community (two respectable members, whose opinions I value. Want to emphasize that moving forward).

My error, and one that makes quite the difference, was not being careful to refer to the tee shot at Wintonbury Hills’s No. 2 as “Cape-style,” instead implying (through poor syntax) the entire hole was a Cape. It is not in the least a “Cape” hole, and a quick Google search will make that obvious to you. My intended point, however, was to note the steep falloff on the left side of the fairway, which is where the proper angle to the green sits as well. A less gutsy player can hit to the wide right of the fairway, which offers a much tougher approach. The two response tweets were “Cape Holes have nothing to do with the tee shot” and “A true Cape hole only has the trouble at the end.” These comments came from gentlemen who know their stuff, and—again—I respect.

Both of their statements are 100% accurate. And I don’t agree with them.

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Golf Heritage Society: The Difficulty in Bringing Young Golfers to Hickories & History (Spoiler: It’s Easy)

If you couldn’t gauge from the entire premise of this website, being hip has never been a high priority for BPBM. So here’s another dose of unpopular sentiment in the current age of “woke” golf: I haven’t yet been tempted to try hickory golf.

Part of it is that I’m not a particularly talented golfer to begin with (15 handicap as of this writing) and I see no need to exaggerate the fact. Secondly, if I spend money on golf, it is almost 100 percent in the pursuit of playing nice courses, as golf course architecture is my primary (and, frankly, only) connection to playing golf. I’ve received a number of generous invitations during the offseason to play at very nice institutions, and I’ve been hustling like heck on freelance gigs to justify this hobby to Black Metal Bride. Your correspondent aside, as a precedent, investment in first-hand history seems to be on the down-and-down, if Civil War reenactments are any suggestion.

“How on Earth,” (to paraphrase what I asked Dr. Bernard “Bern” Bernacki, President of the Golf Heritage Society) “does one who heads a 50 year-old organization go about drawing in younger generations to play hickory golf? Modern middle schoolers mock me for owning an iPhone 6…how would they treat me if they saw my niblick?” It is a question Bernacki has often answered. Rather easily, actually.

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Making Mountains Work for Membership: Old Toccoa Farm’s Techniques for Not Killing Retirees with Insane Slope

It’s been a minute since we played at Old Toccoa Farm and since The Fried Egg ran our feature regarding shaper Jack Dredla’s involved work creating a golf club out of the difficult, and beautiful, Blue Ridge Mountains—and his ongoing commitment to that project. Dredla, recovering from kidney cancer, took a full time position with the club (which opened its full 18 during 2019) so that he could see it through to term, understanding that a golf course requires four to five years to reach its fruition. You can read that piece here. That said, I’ve got a lot of photos left and very little subject matter for new content coming out of Winter. So here’s a post I hope doesn’t step on their toes too much.

The Fried Egg has also recently begun a series, the “School of Golf Architecture,” that I imagine will focus on the core elements of the subject. Garrett Morrison’s first entry is on “place”; not the soil or even the landscape, but the idea of a property’s personality. The land at Old Toccoa, and the region surrounding the title river, is not lacking for this. It’s beautiful, and the culture of the region is quickly making it a tourist destination.

But that does not necessarily make it an ideal location for golf, in the same way that the Congolese rainforest is not a great place for a golf course (or much human life, outside of Michael Fay). That said, ownership of the Old Toccoa development was determined to include a golf course within the community, which was aimed at the ‘50s and ‘60s demographic. The fly-fishing setup was easy, but a golf course was, frankly, a foolhardy proposition. Although it took much longer than they could have foreseen, their investment in Bunker Hill Golf to handle its design made the result a rare one…a golf course that manages to function amid such extreme conditions.

Continue reading “Making Mountains Work for Membership: Old Toccoa Farm’s Techniques for Not Killing Retirees with Insane Slope” »

Bentgrass is Bentgrass: The Greens (and Mainly Croquet Courts) at Grandfather Golf & Country Club

On a routine run of the internet a few weeks back, we were struck by arguably the worst choice of words we had ever seen in a golf course/club review. It was directed, specifically, at Grandfather Golf & Country Club’s croquet competition: “The club also has a robust croquet program,” the reviewer noted. “Whites only!”

Appalled, we rushed to the internet. Let’s be real…there are courses that still ban black membership. Just, you know, not so overtly as to actually write it into their bylaws. And we would have expected these places to be much farther south than the North Carolina Blue Ridge range. The good news: It is common practice to wear only white in competitive croquet. There is probably questionable history, and music taste, behind this but at least we’re not talking about outright racism here. Many apologies to all the croquet fans of the world for our ignorance.

This ignorance, however, led to a further examination of the croquet world. And dang. It’s a more legitimate thing than you might have guessed…especially at a place like Grandfather.

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Debatably Donald & The Damage Done: W.D. Clark and The Architects Forgotten at Faux Ross Courses

Special thanks to Jay Revell and Rick Shefchik for their contributions to this piece. Many of you are familiar with Jay from his site, but Rick is an accomplished sports and music writer, whose ‘From Fields to Fairways’ is a history of Minnesota’s classic courses. 

This is not a story about Donald Ross.

However, as much of the subject matter is tied to Palatka Golf Club—a municipal south of Jacksonville that is also allegedly a Donald Ross design—it’s tricky to avoid him. You may have caught that one word in the previous sentence that sets up an obvious premise…a fact-and-fiction regarding the course’s lineage. It’s a common theme, covered by Will Bardwell at Great Southern Golf Club, and covered eagerly by the press during the drama surrounding Mayfair Country Club in Sanford, FL. A similar tale could be told about many Ross courses, and many have previously broached the topic regarding Palatka. Analyzing Palatka won’t be a Pulitzer “A-HA” investigative moment.

So this isn’t a story about Donald Ross or about why the proper identification of this course is important for his legacy. This is a story about W.D. Clark and why the proper identification of this course is important to his legacy.

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Golf.com’s Top 100 Courses in The World…and What YOU Hate About It. Comparing Trends at Every “Top 100” and Finding Your Match

The few of you who were around at this point last year might remember our feature, “Golf Digest’s Top 100…And What YOU Hate About It. A Statistical Analysis of The ‘Best’ Courses.” You may remember a few things about it…for one, it had nothing to do with statistics, and everything to do with looking at simple numbers and noting trends (they’re different). Secondly, it focused specifically on three major services’ Top 100 U.S. golf courses. Due to the overwhelming lack of readership we had last year, we are unable to provide solid evidence that there’s a demand for the same feature highlighting the Top 100 golf courses in the world.

So we’re doing it anyway…and then you can tell us “never again.”

As a reminder, the three most certifiable rankers we’re looking at are Golf, Golf Digest, and Top100GolfCourses.com—three offerings that base their rankings on a panel of some scope, and not simply a roundtable.

Continue reading “Golf.com’s Top 100 Courses in The World…and What YOU Hate About It. Comparing Trends at Every “Top 100” and Finding Your Match” »