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.

The Traveling Golfer

With host Tony Leodora will travel both near and far to bring viewers a look at some of the most spectacular golf destinations in the world!

16 Apr
2017

This dog learns new tricks

Written by Bob Oliver

If there ever was a golf Cinderella story, it simply must be the assent of Wesley Bryan to PGA Tour Champion.

The South Carolina native has been a media darling for years, competing in the golf reality show Big Break and entertaining with his brother George with their trick shots on You Tube. The Bryan Brothers videos have been viewed by nearly 10 million people on the latter, where their “Rapid Fire” and “Range Picker Shots” are legend.

Novelty items, sure. But there is no doubt Wesley Bryan can play at golf’s highest level. He proved it at the Heritage Classic where he carded rounds of 69-67-68-67 for a 13-under-par 271 and the championship. Clutch pars on the final two holes sealed the deal over Luke Donald.

No more double takes from fans who wonder if he could really play, because he’s proved he surely has game.

What is remarkable is how quickly the transition from showman to stardom has occurred. A 2012 University of South Carolina grad, Bryan and George played in mini-tour events while perfecting their trick shot routines. Everything from George hitting a sand shot that Wesley hits in the air to a fairway a couple hundred yards away to, well, unbelievable shots from all over a driving range or golf course.

The internet was abuzz with their trick shot antics, but along the way the goal of competitive golf success was always first and foremost.

Last year saw Wesley Bryan on the Web.com Tour. There he played in 13 events, missing four cuts, but on the positive side had seven top-10 finishes and won three events, earning a battlefield promotion to the PGA Tour. He posted a top-10 finish at the John Deere Classic late in the season.

This season Bryan has been remarkable, with fourth place finishes at the Genesis Open and Honda Classic and a seventh at this Valspar Championship.

Still, winning for the first time on the PGA Tour in his rookie season is quite the feat. Especially when he’s most known for his trick shot repertoire. It helps to have brother George on the bag, and along the way you have to think there have to be trick shot hijinks in their minds.

Given the difficulty of some of their trick shots, one could imagine that shots on the course come easy. Not the case, as the difference between the two worlds are night and day. Still, having made hundreds of impossible shots over the last few years must place a positive note in the recess of Bryan’s mind, so when faced with a challenging shot the mind merely says, “You can Do it.”

Rags to riches, Bryan has earned nearly $2-million on the PGA Tour this year. He’s the darling of galleries, and the future is bright.

Clearly he has more game than a casual observer would have surmised.

Who s

02 Apr
2017

Ban viewers who call/write on rule violations

Written by Bob Oliver

 

I called into Major League Baseball offices and let them know a ball called in yesterday's Washington National’s game was actually a strike.  

To my surprise, MLB didn't change the call.  

Interestingly enough, a wrong call was made on for holding in the Philadelphia Flyers-New York Rangers hockey game over the weekend on a play which led to a goal. I e-mailed the National Hockey League offices and let them know, but they too didn't change the call.

But some yahoo burro calls or writes the LPGA Tour and drops a dime on Lexi Thompson in the ANA Inspiration and before you can say “bingo” the LPGA penalized the tournament leader and ultimately cost her $154,509 in prize winnings as well as a championship.

What did Thompson do? Kick her ball out of the rough? Roll a putt by throwing instead of using a putter? Start handing out mulligans? Wear uncoordinated clothing colors?

Nope, none of the above.

The 22-year-old was: 1) given a two-shot penalty Sunday for incorrectly marking her golf ball on a green during Saturday’s round, and, 2) given a two-shot penalty for signing an incorrect scorecard. The penalties were given a day later.

Thompson did not knowingly replace her ball on the green incorrectly, her playing partners saw no violation, and rules officials walking with the players said nary a word. But a day later words like “ridiculous”, “unbelievable”, “wrong” and “stupid” were uttered by professional golfers when informed of the situation.

For years viewers have called in potential rules violations and the practice has got to stop.

Last year the blowhard callers nearly cost Dustin Johnson the U.S. Open Championship and may have cost Anna Nordqvist the U.S. Women’s Championship.

A couple years ago Mrs. LPGA, Juli Inkster, was in one of those endless waits on the tee (about 30 minutes) wanted to stay warmed up in an event. So she inserted a weighted attachment (a "doughnut" similar to what baseball players use in the on deck circle) and took some practice swings. That's it. She could just as easily lifted her golf bag 10 times, and that would have been perfectly legal.  

A television viewer contacts the LPGA, and Inkster, just a couple shots out of the lead, gets to leave the course on a walk of shame.

Give me a break. I know, I know, rules are rules. I know Dustin Johnson was in a phantom bunker at the PGA Championship and grounded his club (where was that rake, anyway?). I know that because after the tournament they took a picture of it, and sure enough, it was a bunker. But in the heat of battle, with people standing in the "hazard" all day, nobody could tell.

There was a rules official right there, watching the whole escapade, and he didn't think it appropriate to say anything to Johnson.

Give me a break.

Years ago a caller reached the PGA Tour office (don’t they have better things to do) and informed that Craig Stadler violated a rule by kneeling on a towel before hitting a shot from soggy ground. Maybe this was right after playing partner Judge Smails threw a ball onto the green, but it was Stadler who was penalized.

Say what?

Bottom line is that there are playing partners observing the play with the opportunity to question a situation. Rules officials generally travel alongside the leading groups to offer help and expertise. And the tours monitor the life feed from the event.  There is absolutely no reason for a Tour to be taking phone calls and e-mails from viewers of an event.

Lexi Thompson is an honorable, rules abiding, upstanding lady. If she broke the rules, she should be disciplined. But this idea that a random caller, a member of the armchair sitting television police, can simply call in and affect the outcome of a tournament is ridiculous. Incredible. It would never, ever happen in other major professional sports.

Golf is supposed to be a gentleman’s game, a gentlewoman’s game. There are rules officials all over the course, but none of them had problems with the above situations. No, some yahoo watching a TV or mobile device in their underwear becomes arbiter and drops a dime on a player. Have to call BS on that one.  

Players regularly call penalties on themselves. Bizarre calls and e-mails should not. Brian Davis did call a penalty on himself and it cost him victory at Hilton Head a couple year’s back. So it's not like players are cheating and getting away with it. They police themselves. By allowing callers, emailers, whatever to call the game is a sham. This is not American Idol, where you call in to an 800 number and make your feelings known. It is professional golf and it looks amateurish.

Here's an idea. Create a the new FWL: Fantasy Watchers League. Participants can watch sporting events and call in infractions. They get points for each time they uncovered a dastardly deed. At the end of the year the winner could pick his or her sport and actually wear an official's outfit and "work" a game. The comedy of that would be priceless.

Until then, shut up.

No other major league sport offers such a venue for millions of armchair rules officials to call in and change the outcome of a tournament. Period.

This boorish behavior has got to stop. Now.

Put viewers on a Do not call list. Don't answer e-mails. Establish a new rule that anyone calling in a violation be permanently barred from the game for a year and all e-mailing and telephoning privileges revoked. Stop the insanity!

 

 

26 Mar
2017

Benvenuto wins first pro title

Written by Bob Oliver

 

Langhorne's globetrotting ladies professional golfer claimed her first championship.

The Symetra Tour veteran, who earned conditional LPGA Tour membership in December, used Australia has her pre-season personal tour by entering three events.

Playing smooth, smart golf, the Neshaminy High School and University of Arizona graduate has battled on the Symetra Tour for five season, earning over $100,000 and posting numerous top-10 finishes. 

This year Benvenuto earned conditional LPGA privileges and will supplement that play with events on the Symetra Tour. Prior to that tour starting and knowing she wasn't eligible for early season LPGA events sent her to the Gold Coast of Australia, where she claimed a professional ancillary event. 

She also competed in the Australian Ladies Professional Golf Tour's RACV Gold Coast Challenge alongside numerous stars, placing 50th. 

Of most recent history Benvenuto played in the Symetra Tour's IOA Championship presented by the Morongo Casino Resort and Spa. There she placed 17th on a 4-under-par performance of 70-70-72--212, earning $1,354.

 

 

11 Mar
2017

Day Trip: Gettysburg and Royal Manchester

Written by Steve Gordon, Bob Oliver

Bucks County has wonderful places to enjoy a round of golf, and we at www.golfbuckscounty.com report on those venues. But we recognize there are dozens of opportunities easily drivable for a day trip or overnight stay with multiple rounds of golf.

The editors took one of those trips recently and visited two outstanding tracks, The Links at Gettysburg and Royal Manchester Golf Link. What a trip it was, as each of the courses was better than advertised. Challenging, fun and great on the wallet.

Links at Gettysburg

General George Meade and his union army at Gettysburg expended great efforts to fortify the left and right flanks from attack back in 1863. When Lindsey Ervin was designing The Links at Gettysburg, just minutes from the famous Civil War battlefield, the designer paid great detail to protecting the flanks of the holes he designed on this South Central Pennsylvania gem.

The first shots were fired here in 1999 and the defensive line stands firm over all 7000 yards of it. I played with a long time golf partner and after nine holes head professional Jason Pandoli told us at the turn that the front nine was a warm up and the back nine was the real challenge. He wasn’t wrong.

As seniors we played a combination of white and green tees called Members tees which shrink the course to about 5800 yards with a hefty slope of 135. No matter the tees being played this course demands to be played with a combination of sound thinking and execution. This is not a course for beginners or players who spray the ball.

That said, I was in love with the course after three holes.

Many courses start you out with a couple of relatively benign holes before hitting you over the head with challenges to your abilities. Here the first hole is not really that kind of hole, and then the second hole is a 372 yard killer rated the third most difficult hole on the course. The Links at Gettysburg rocks you right out of the blocks.

I don’t want to go hole by hole in this narrative but the third hole is their signature hole. It is a downhill par three that is 160 yards from an elevated tee and all carry over waste area and a creek to a green set into the natural red rocks indigenous to the area. Miss short and you are wet. Miss long and there is a bunker between the rock wall and the green that runs away from you back towards the creek.

The course winds its way through the natural terrain of the area and the homes built around it are there… butthey aren’t. That is to say they don’t intrude or encroach on the golf course to be a distraction or come into play with an errant shot.

In addition to the outstanding layout and routing of the course there is a lot of water. When I mentioned protecting the left and right flanks I had holes 13 thru 18 as well as number 7 in mind.

The elevated white tee on seven is dramatic and what you see is what looks like a ribbon of fairway squeezed between water hazards. The decision is how much do you want to flirt with or do you opt to play it safe. However if you hit a nice straight safe tee ball two things come into play. First is you have longer route to the green on this 560 yarder (it is 602 from the back tee). The second thing to consider is if you pound that straight drive you run out of fairway around 220 yards out.

As far as the six closing holes you better not be allergic to water. All of them have water and or woods on both sides with forced carries on the 161 yard par 3 15th and the 393 yard par 4 16th with the latter fronting the green.

The Links at Gettysburg is part of what is called the Raspberry Golf Trail that includes 16 top notch courses from central and southern Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and down into Virginia. A membership gets you a free round after three paid rounds at these courses. You can explore that at www.raspberrygolftrail.com. If you just want to visit the Links at Gettysburg go to www.thelinksatgettysburg.com.

The Links at Gettysburg a definate must play and rates 4.4 on our scale.

Royal Manchester

Well, there’s some controversy about the Royal in Manchester, but other than that nitpicking statement there isn’t much to dislike about this challenging, fun and eye-catching 18 near York, Pa. designed by Timothy Freeland.

There isn’t a tree which comes into play on the course, which is built upon Pennsylvania Power and Light land near the Susquehanna River along rolling hills. Wind is a hazard which can change day to day, and while the greens are sizeable being in the wrong position beings three-putting often into play.

The course winds over the countryside like it has been there for decades but it’s a relatively new course. It has as much teeth a player can want, and shorter tee boxes allow players of all abilities to accept the challenge.

Numbers 4 and 7 are drivable par four tests, and the par-5 ninth is as much a golf hole as you’d like. A perfect drive brings the green in play in two shots, but miss short or to the sides and water is in play, and a long shot gets one into a collection area that means nothing but trouble for a third shot.

Golf Advisor ranked Royal Manchester 42nd as it’s places to play in America, so the golfing public clearly likes the course. At the most recent PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando the course received an award for its conditioning and playability. Why? Royal Manchester’s greens were destroyed in 2015 when a contaminated batch of fungicide was applied.

“It was awful,” explained General Manager/PGA Professional Kieron Moony, who closed the course on June 15, 2015. “Looking back, it was a terrible time, but I made the decision to close the course and take care of the problem full on rather than piecemeal. We had to flush out the bad chemical from the greens, using a charcoal liquid. Then we waited for it to work, and about a month later we cross slit the greens in two directions and dropped A1/A4 Bent grass seed.

“About ten days later we saw germination and we oversaw heavy irrigation schedule to give the grass a chance. It is obviously difficult to grow healthy grass in July and August, so we had to take great care. We continued to overseed until we had full grow in coverage by late October. It was a great deal of work, but the team did a great job and we reopened March 1, 2016.”

A stellar job was done, as the course is better than ever and one wouldn’t notice there had been a problem with the greens. They roll well, and are as dastardly as ever. The time off allowed a couple new tees to be built, adding even more challenge.

“From a design standpoint, our course flows so very well. There are no gimmicky holes, and we attempt to have the course in great shape” added Moony, who advised the York Open is held at the course through 2025. “I believe in stellar customer service, and we do our best to make the visitors happy.”

Visually, Royal Manchester is right there in front of you. There are a couple blind shots…if your tee shot doesn’t crest a hill for instance. But it is not some tricked up layout. The course rewards good shots, and what you see is what you get. An outstanding test worthy of a drive from Bucks County.

 

Royal Manchester is part of the Raspberry Golf Trail, a reasonable drive from Bucks County and a Must Play destination. It rated 4.2 stars on our 0-5 point scale. Details found at www.royalmanchestergolflinks.com