I was going to write a post about our awesome school system in LoCo but it was a little difficult to come up with something nice after the way LCPS handled this past Tuesday. Instead let’s think happier thoughts and talk about golf, namely my favorite courses and my realistic bucket list.
Back in 2005 I went on the trip of a lifetime to play golf in Ireland. My dad, brother, and 5 other close friends on the Southwest coast for a week. The weather was absolutely perfect (yes it rained every day but as the locals say “If it’s na’er rain it’s na’er golf”) and we played some amazing courses. Three of my top 5 favorites were on that trip, take a look:
#5. Cannon Ridge Golf Club, Fredericksburg, VA
You’re going to notice a theme here, links golf is my favorite. Cannon Ridge opened in 2003 and was the brainchild of Deane Beman, the former commissioner of the PGA Tour. It has received accolades locally and nationally, ranked as the #1 Public Course on the East Coast by Golf Magazine in 2004. What I love about it is the rolling terrain and mixture of holes. Maybe part of my infatuation is that I always played well here, breaking par 6 out of 8 trips. The bad news is that the course closed in 2013. The good news is the course is undergoing renovations and they hope to re-open in the near future.
#4. Half Moon Bay Golf Links, San Francisco, CA
I’ve only played the Ocean Course here, we didn’t have time to hit the Old Course. Every hole has breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and there are a few where you need to be cautious of falling off a cliff. It’s a Ritz Carlton property and also happens to be the location where the movie American Wedding was filmed. What stands out about Half Moon Bay is the setting. Touted as the only true links course in the Bay area, it really felt like we were back in Ireland.
#3. Ballybunion, County Kerry, Ireland
Tom Watson is my all time favorite golfer and this is his favorite course in the Europe. When we went on our trip this was the first course we played, 36 holes of majestic links golf. I’ve had my share of first tee jitters playing in club professional tournaments and US Open qualifying but had never gotten them playing a casual round of golf. Until I stepped up on the first tee at Ballybunion (pronounced Bal-ee-bunnon by the locals). There were only about 15 people or so watching but I was sick to my stomach. Somehow I managed to avoid the graveyard on the right hand side and kept it in play. Walked off the course that day having shot 73-75, what a great way to start the week.
#2. Tralee, County Kerry, Ireland
Day two of our trip was to Tralee for a round at an Arnold Palmer design. Up to that point in my life I had never seen a more beautiful golf course. Holes that seemed to go straight out into the ocean were combined with others turning inward toward the mountains. It was hard to believe the course was only 20 years old, it seemed as though it had been cut from the land a century ago. The wind blew 40 miles per hour straight across every hole and I couldn’t tell you what any of the fairways on the back nine looked like. That was also our first of many fun times with our caddies. Based on how my buddy Wayne and I had butchered the first hole our youngster gave us club selections for the tee shot on #2. Mine bounced onto the 4th green and Wayne’s nearly hit a fellow player on the fly. We learned a few Gaelic curse words from the old caddie with the group we nearly killed.
#1. Old Head Golf Links, Kinsale, Ireland
It took exactly three days for Tralee to be bumped to #2. We had been looking at the fly over videos of Old Head for months before making the journey. As spectacular as it was it was nothing compared to what we experienced. Every hole would have been the signature of any course I had ever played. We had absolutely perfect conditions, 68 degrees and sunny with a gentle breeze. Alongside my dad and my brother I have never enjoyed a round of golf more. The picture at the top is from that day and it sits on my desk, reminding of that round and beckoning me back.
For the record my favorite LoCo course is Raspberry Falls in Leesburg. I think Gary Player does an outstanding job building courses which are challenging for skilled players and enjoyable for not so skilled players.
My bucket list doesn’t include places like Augusta or Pine Valley, it’s limited to places I have a chance to play. In no particular order, here they are:
- Bandon Dunes
- Pebble Beach
- Pinehusrt #2
- St. Andrews in Scotland
- Carnoustie in Scotland
- Royal Troon
- Sand Hills Golf Club
- Whistling Straights
- Royal County Down
- Royal Melbourne
- Bethpage Black
- TPS Sawgrass
- Kiawah Island
- Anywhere in Hawaii
Hope that makes this 9 degree day a little warmer, I’d love to hear your favorites.