Golf Bucks County

By Bob Oliver

Middletown Country Club

Middletown is a compact 80 acres of challenging golf, with rolling hills and large specimen trees that have watched many golfers travel its fairways over time. It has retained its old time feel with tees and greens in close proximity, allowing golfers to walk the course if they choose.

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08 Jan
2021

Sorenstam, Player right to accept Medal of Freedom

Written by Bob Oliver

 

Why does everything have to be political?

These days it appears everything is. Identity politics. Political correctness. Woke politics.

Each person apparently has to hate someone else.  Trash them in fact.  The time for true discussion, negotiation, compromise and diplomacy has been put to the side. Basically, everything sucks.

2020 was a year where I “lost” 12 former golf buddies.  Women and men who no longer wanted to play the wonderful game of golf with this corner.

Why?  Did I take too many gimmies or outright cheat? Not buy drinks at the turn? Employ the foot wedge?

Nope.

Merely commenting to someone’s question on a singular issue – not supporting a candidate or a political party – meant no more golf.  One so called friend, who I’d had a regular game with, actually asked to play at my course and I gleefully took care of his fees, never thanked me nor returned calls for a rematch.

My sin? I said it was good to hear the United States had peace agreements with several mid-east countries.   Something our country has been trying to achieve for decades.

But in today’s politically charged environment it could have been that I’d spit on the flag or robbed a bank.  We were done.

Whatever.  I played more golf in a COVID year than any year in the past.  Okay, some of those rounds were not available for posting to the USGA because they were by myself, but damn, it was a bright side of an awful year.

Which brings us to Christine Brennan’s column in USA Today recently where she called out Annika Sorenstam and Gary Player for accepting the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Donald J. Trump. Brennan basically said each recipient was negligent to humanity by accepting the award from the President.

She’s entitled to her opinion.  That’s what the First Amendment is all about.

There is no question professional golfers Player and Sorenstam (and the Babe Didrikson Zaharias) deserve recognition of the Medal of Freedom. Actually long overdue.  Each is golf icon in their own right.  Hall of Famers.  Caring.  Charitable. And darned nice people. 

The Medal represents “especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world piece, cultural or other significant or public endeavors.” It is an award not limited to citizens of the United States.

Does anyone think they are not deserving?

To decree they should have refused the award defies logic and unfathomable.  

It is not the Donald Trump Award.   It is the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Since the 1960s recognition has been given to a diverse group of individuals from all walks of life and from throughout the world. 

Somehow Brennan has made this prestigious award political and all about Trump instead of being about what it was intended, to recognize outstanding, deserving people.  Player and Sorenstam are exemplary recipients, and they’ve been tarnished by this hit piece in a national publication. That’s just wrong. They don't deserve to be chastised for accepting the award.

Each of these people are special in their own way, with numerous accomplishments on the course and significant ones off. Giving them the award was immensely right, not wrong regardless of who actually handed them the award. 

Just as it would be wrong to single out the scores of recipients honored by William Jefferson Clinton, who had sex with an intern inside the White House and was accused of rape and sexual harassment and whose law license was suspended due to his actions.  Does that mean deserving honorees such as George McGovern, Jesse Jackson or Rosalynn Carter should have declined the Medal when Clinton handed it to them?

Richard Nixon, before his resignation due to Watergate scandal, oversaw nearly 40 Medal of Freedom awards including those to Duke Ellington, Neil Armstrong and Eugene Ormandy and not a single person rejected the honor. 

Much has been documented about Barack Obama ordering drone killings of American citizens and his knowledge of wiretapping/spying on an incoming administration.  Does that mean Billy Jean King, Sandra Day O’Connor or Bill Russell should have declined the honor?

Of course not. 

If it were a partisan decision then the lists of recipients would reflect the President’s own opinion, not one that was well thought out, recommended, and ultimately granted.

But hey, in this politically charged environment everything must be determined by some woke knee-jerk adjudication.  At least that’s what some think.

Gary Player and Annika Sorenstam are wonderful, caring and deserving recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  It’s an award that should be celebrated and not become a political football. Their acceptance of the award was the right thing to do. 

Period. 

05 Jan
2021

Pinelands receives welcome facelift

Written by Bob Oliver
 

One can’t help liking the Pinelands Golf Club.

It’s a challenging 18 holes of golf and a place where golfers find a fun set of holes carved out of towering New Jersey pines requiring a strategic approach to score well.  Long knockers are welcome, but it’s the “smart” thinking golfer who can consistently score well.

Cozy, friendly and offering challenge to golfers of all abilities.

Designed in the early 1960s Pinelands has bedazzled local players and those on their way to the shore for a first day or last day vacation stroll around a challenging layout. Recent years saw a bit of a decline in conditions, but under the new ownership of the DiDonato Family the hidden opportunity called Pinelands has regained some of its luster. And polishing is on the way.

Not leaving well enough alone, area golf course architect Stephen Kay has walked the course and recommended numerous improvements, while superintendent Barry Anes has been implementing a number of enhancements.

“There is obviously work to be done, as the course has been around a half century without a lot of change,” explained Kay, whose singular designs include Blue Heron Pines (West), Harbor Pines, The Architect’s Club, Scotland Run and McCullough’s Emerald Links among others. “There has already been some work removing overgrown trees and extending some fairways, and we are finalizing an overall design recommendation.”

Pinelands has long been a fun layout, and the renovations will undoubtedly improve the overall experience. It’s situated on a serine setting near the Wharton State Forest away from the hustle and bustle of traffic.

“In some respects, it’s a work in progress because our master plan has a whole lot of improvements on the horizon. We are finalizing it to bring out the best,” explained head golf professional Brian Bakic, brought in from Trump National – Philadelphia, and someone who also has worked at Ballamor closer to the shore. “We’ve taken a long look at the entire facility, and you already see enhancements to the course and the rest of the facility.”

Pinelands is a compact par-72 of 6,145 yards. Long known as a course that requires some precision to score well on its tantalizing greens, the Pinelands team has left no stone unturned in the planning for the facility. It reviewed player comments and experiences in addition to having a professional look from Kay.

Along the way they realized that some holes didn’t survive the test of time.  Oh, they were playable, but the years had changed things as trees, ponds and other environmental things changed the course from its original intent. Drainage and cart paths were not at the top of the to-do list. Thus, revisions to the design of several holes, number one is a good example, are required. 

Kay’s experience is critical in this regard. His minimalist philosophy which has at its core hopes of having a playable test which makes thinking and strategy important as well as a course where nature is enhanced awaits.  He also considers challenge, safety and fun in his calculations. Oh, and a course that tantalizes all levels of players.

Pinelands was confounding to today’s longer hitters, as while a par-5 needing a big drive and short iron might look nice for scoring purposes it’s not all that challenging. Such is the case with the 465-yard ninth hole (472 yards from tips). A few more yards and a strategic hazard/bunker would make it a hole that could bedazzle. 

 

“Pinelands is not a big bangers course by today’s standards,” explained Bakic of the Ralph Leopardi design which opened to play in 1964. “We want the course to challenge a player, and have an authentic feel that had each hole providing a test.  We have a bit of old school feel with tree lined fairways and small fast greens that demand respect because of its potential bite.

“The course sets up in a way that requires one to use all your clubs, and it places a premium on the tee shot, short game and putting stroke. When thinking of shots, number 10 provides a good example of the thought process.  A short dogleg left there is all kinds of trouble on the left side of the tee shot, and long is bad as well.  Assuming perfect positioning, the approach shot has a premium on hitting to the correct yardage.”

Hopes are that with a little work there will be more possible pin positions while maintaining difficulty. Adding a few more yards and reworking a couple holes will improve the challenge.  And spending a few bucks on maintenance will enhance the entire player experience. There is not much variation in the yardages of the par three holes, a fact that could change in the next iteration of the design.

The Pinelands Golf Club, while in a bit of new ownership transition, is clearly taking steps to be a must play opportunity. The time just off Mays Landing Road are a changing!

CHIP SHOTS: Pinelands has a new 5,000 square foot maintenance facility, just one more behind the scenes enhancement to improve the experience…There is room to add a few yards to number 18, making a good finishing hole even better…The practice “drive zone” facility will offer top tracer technology and provide a golf experience for the entire family…Pinelands offers an array of food and beverage opportunities…Telephone 609-561-1800 for more information or check out www.pinelandsgolfclub.com