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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Local Columns

Corona virus effects everyone

Written by Bob Oliver on .

Covid 19. 

That's the phrase of the year. Maybe decade. Maybe longer.

The "Corona virus" has affected the United States as part of the world pandemic of a new strain of flu. Measures are being considered and implemented to slow the spread of the disease, yet at this point there is no definitive solution.

This is serious.

Bars and restaurants have closed. Most sports have shuttered their areas and stadiums. Golf's Players Championship was cancelled after one round was completed and the Masters has been postponed. Things do not look good for having a PGA Championship in San Francisco in May. (Ed Note, PGA postponed).

Nobody knows what the future will bring. 

Yesterday, in Virginia, it was golf as usual at the Schoolhouse Nine, a challenging short course that is walking only. It was great to be outside and hitting golf balls.  And just like RIckie Fowler battled Justin Thomas in a friendly match in Florida, fun was had on the golf course even in these trying times.  

Around Bucks County, play is a day-by-day proposal.  Northampton Valley and Five Ponds have closed their courses.  Middletown, Bensalem Township, Neshaminy Valley and the Bucks Club as of this date remain open for play - although overnight rains have closed things down somewhat. 

"It's a jumbled time," admitted Bensalem professional Jim Bogan, who has seen a lot in his 50-plus years at the club. "We've been open for play, but our full food and beverage services are closed. We are taking all kinds of precautions, like disinfecting and cleaning carts, keys, you name it. We are aware of the situation."

Middletown has been allowing walking play, and it has been brisk at times. 

Northampton Valley communicated with customers that it will be closed "effective immediately to support public health efforts" and noted it will reopen as they are able.

"It really is a day-to-day review of the situation," added Bogan. "We discuss each day what is going on, and how we should proceed. It's truly and up to the minute set of decisions."

The Bensalem club has aerated much of the course, so that's a fact that has limited play somewhat. Besides, it is not yet golf "season". But the club historically, like Middletown, has a group of year-around players.

Those players are assured that equipment is being wiped down and measures taken to limit interactions between players.

Five Ponds in Warminster is closed until the end of the month, as is the Backyard Bar and Grille. 

Stonewall, a private club, has closed facilities although members can play the course sans carts while McCullough's Emerald Links, a public course, is open down the shore but requiring online and telephone pre-pay as pro shop entry is limited. Cash is not accepted for merchandise. 

Care is taken on the course. For instance, in a weekend round, my group left the flagstick in the hole, fist bumps were discouraged even after that great shot, and elbow bumps or pulling a competitors ball out of the hole for them strongly discouraged.

Cart attendants are not in use at many clubs, so players asked to load their own carts, and in some locations, carts are limited to a single occupant to ensure social distancing. 

A week ago, we played nine rounds in seven days, doing our best to stay away from contact with others (oh, did almost get hit my a young bomber while waiting in the fairway) and just having a swell time otherwise.  We were playing in Las vegas and Mesquite, Nevada, on great courses which were a treat (www.golfmesquite).  Hard to believe days later courses are shutting down. 

People were being smart. 

In these times, as always, it's much better to be smart!

 

Quest for 1,000 courses played

Written by Bob Oliver on .

 

It is no secret I'm a golf fanatic.  Love watching in person, on TV and especially love playing the game. 

It's an addiction. 

Today it's 5 degrees and I am thinking about golf. About how I can get to my next goal of having played 1,000 golf courses.  I'm at 956 played, and truth be told for the most part I'd rather play a new muni than a course I've played before.  I just need the new courses to hit the 1,000 course milestone. 

2018 saw me play 39 new golf courses. I've played in 35 states, the District of Columbia an 11 countries. I want more...more...more.

My home state of Pennsylvania has seen me play 135 of its layouts, while New Jersey is runner-up with 110 played. South Carolina has seen me on 100 courses. 

States rounding out the top-10 are Florida (80 played), Arizona (65), Virginia (64) California (48), North Carolina (34), Maryland (44) and Nevada (38). 

That's a lot of golf on a diverse set of layouts. Bunch of Donald Ross courses, as well as the likes of Tom Fazio, Rees Jones, Tom Doak, Stephen Kay, Gil Hanse and a special favorite designer, Ron Garl.

The last year saw me playing several Garl gems, like Money Hill and Lakewood in Louisiana and Golden Ocala in Florida. A new special find was Eagle Creek near the Orlando airport. Garl just designs playable, fun courses for every level of golfer and just doesn't receive the plaudits he should. 

So what is on the horizon for 2019. Nothing set in stone, but Hammock Dunes and Creighton Farms on the list, as well as any new ones I can traverse as part of my Golfweek Magazine Course Rater duties. 

Stoneleigh in Virginia and Stonewall in Pennsylvania are the exceptions to my one and done prescription, as I'm a regular at both. 

But the bottom line is that I must play 40 new courses this year and best the 1,000 threshold early in 2020.  If not sooner. 

See you on the golf course. 

Herr drops Pa. Jr. in playoff

Written by Bob Oliver on .

New Hope's Zachary Herr came within a whisker of winning the 62nd

Pennsylvania Junior Golf Championship.

 

 

Herr, the opening round leader, and Fox Hill Country Club's Brandon

Matthews finished regulation 36 holes knotted at 136. Herr had opened

with a 67 and added a 69, while Matthews posted a 71 and 65 over the

Hershey Country Club. The two players finished seven shots better than

anyone else in the field.

 

 

 

Slice of Pine Valley in back yard

Written by Bob Oliver on .

It's a rainy day that could become a snowy one if there was any snow to be found on the east coast, and my mind is wandering. For some reason I was thinking about the Warrington Golf Club and how I nearly had a hole-in-one there some 30 years ago.

 

Of course the Warrington layout is long gone, a fallen victim to the developer's bulldozers. Area courses like Island Green, Center Valley and the Bristol Golf Farm have suffered the same fate. It's not a Delaware Valley thing, as less than 20 new courses were constructed in the United States over the last year while more than 150 have met their untimely death, according to the National Golf Foundation. The NGF also revealed that for the sixth consecutive year golf course closures outpaced course openings.

Smeraglio "finally" corrals Mid-Am

Written by Bob Oliver on .

When Glenn Smeraglio gets the flat stick going, look out.

 

Today, at Laurel Creek (N.J.) Country Club, the Newtown resident lit up the back nine on his way to a 2-under-par 69 which vaulted him past 7 players and to the 28th annual Golf Association of Philadelphia Middle Amateur Championship.