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!

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

30 Jan
2017

Daly and Loudmouth Golf a true team

Written by Bob Oliver

 

If ever there was a person who was clearly an enigma, it would be John Patrick Daly.

On one hand, he’s a two-time major champion, a guy who shocked the world by winning the 1991 PGA Championship after surprisingly getting into the event as the ninth alternate. On the other hand, he’s battled alcohol, gambling and an assortment of vices that kept him from winning more than four times on the PGA Tour.  

John Daly’s life would easily be defined as “My Way.” A winner of championships on the PGA Tour, European Tour (1995 British Open), Sunshine Tour, Asian Tour and Web.com Tour, Daly has earned a fortune playing golf. Living life, he’s spent a fortune and been involved in numerous on and off course incidents. Along the way he wore out more welcomes than an obnoxious relative.

Still, his long drive prowess (he was first to record an average drive distance of more than 300 yards on the PGA Tour) and renegade bad boy attitude made him loved or hated by millions of golf fans. Love him or hate him, he always garnered headlines.

Now a member of the PGA Tour Champions, Daly is competitive but has yet to win.

“I’m playing well, I’m hitting the ball well and managing my game but I just haven’t put it all together there (on the Champions Tour),” explained the man alternately known as Wild Thing, Long John and The Lion. “It’s all about my putting. I’m not making any putts.”

At the PGA Merchandise Show, where he was endorsing the Loudmouth Golf line of clothing, Daly was cautiously optimistic that his putting stroke would come around. When reminded that he had always been a streaking putter, Daly smiled that shy yet knowledgeable smile of his.

 

 

“You are exactly correct!” he commented. “That’s been a trait of mine. There have been times when I step up to a putt and know I’m going to make it. I get that confidence going and all of a sudden things are good and all is well. I just have to get into that mode to win out there.”

He’s tried various putters, grips and strokes, but nothing is working to his hopes at this point, and no doubt a putter or two might accidentally “drown” if not working properly. But there’s hope and confidence that putts will soon start dropping and a win will follow.

Daly is a good old boy with lots of interests, and fun is at the top of the list. Fun could be course design (he has a handful to his credit), music (he’s recorded a few songs), but it’s golf that is a passion.

“I love the game, but there are times when the game doesn’t love me back,” he said with a smile.

Daly’s association with Loudmouth Golf is a perfect match. He loves his (Arkansas) Razorback, Dallas Cowboys, St. Louis Cardinals, Candy Crush and Graffiti sets, garners attention on the course with his ensemble, and garners attention for the brand.

“The absolute great thing about Loudmouth is that you can get dressed in the dark,” joked Daly with a huge grin. “Everything matches! But seriously, we have so many colorful designs we have something for everyone. I know you never know what the public will take a liking to, but Woody (Loudmouth’s Scott “Woody” Woodworth) will try just about anything.

“Loudmouth is reflection of a really cool lifestyle, it’s great to be involved with them. Its style fits my style.”

“JD has been a great addition to our team,” said Woodworth, who said the association with Daly was years in the making. “He’s not just a spokesperson, he actually gives us great advice and helps with our products. He has some great ideas and we have put some of them into play. It’s a good team.”

Woodworth said Loudmouth borrowed conceptually from golf’s past, when crazy colors were turned in by designs worn by golfers such as Johnny Miller. By the 80s such designs were passé, but became rejuvenated by Caddyshack’s notorious Al Czervick played by Rodney Dangerfield.  It took a while before Loudmouth led the new resurgence of colors, but their splash has been felt worldwide.

Woodworth founded the company in 2000 and has stuck to its core business model since. “We want to entice the world to enjoy our product,” said Woodworth. The company has long had the slogan, to develop products for those who want to stand out, smile and have fun.

Daly is the perfect spokesperson for the company. His fans will be able to see him up close in personal in Loudmouth outfits on the PGA Champions Tour, but he also hopes to play a couple PGA Tour events including the Greenbrier Classic, as well as a couple Senior Asian Tour events and the British Open.

“Mr. (Jim) Justice has that great event, and they went through so much with the cancellation last year due to the horrific floods. I’d like to help out in any way I can,” said a serious Daly, who corrected himself by calling Mr. Justice "Governor." Justice was elected governor of West Virginia last fall.

Wherever he plays, the fans will follow.

“Awesome, the fans have always been awesome. I can’t explain it,” said Daly, attempting to explain the unexplanable. “Maybe a lot of fans just love a guy who is real, who has his ups and downs. People relate to me in some way. I am simply a guy who is different, who’s crazy, who’s done dumb things. I’m honest about it, though, I admit it when I do stupid things.”

Daly has done scores of stupid things over the years, no doubt, but he’s also done a world of good with his play and his support of charitable organizations. No if he can get that putting stroke to begin firing on all cylinders, victories will come.

Daly Notes: Daly’s first album “My Life” included guest vocals by Willie Nelson, Darius Rucker and Johnny Lee, and he wrote/co-wrote eight songs on his album including “I only know one way”.  He sang back up to Kid Rock on the song “Half Your Ago”…Daly has put a new Vertical Groove driver in his bag and serves as that company’s goodwill ambassador...Daly has fond memories of Philadelphia area, and is amazed the PGA Tour no longer has a tour stop. "We played the Senior PGA at Philadelphia Cricket Club, and that was a nice track."

29 Jan
2017

Can Tour Edge "XJ1" be "that" strong?

Written by Bob Oliver

 

ORLANDO, FL: There is never a dull, quiet moment at the annual PGA Merchandise Show at the Orange County Convention Center.  

More than 1000 products, from brand spanking new golf clubs to golf travel companies and everyone in between are on hand, along with professional golf legends like Annika Sorenstam, Bubba Watson and Sir Nick Faldo walking the aisles.

It is the show of shows and always a can't miss Orlando retreat, although there isn't a lot of fun in the sun as most walk miles and miles a day reviewing new products and ideas. It's clearly a great event for the Fitbit!

The show opens with a demo day at Orange County National where companies display their wares and allow those in attendance the opportunity to check out what's new in their line. Celebrity appearances - Bubba was blasting 350 yard drives that bedazzled all - are not uncommon. 

Every once in a while there is something that just catches one's attention. Callaway unveiled its Epic clubs, Taylor Made it's improved M1 line, and nearly every manufacturer was entering the new year with a positive attitude. 

"We have some outstanding offerings, and we are excited about 2017," said Callaway CEO Chip Brewer, a Lower Moreland High School grad and former All-Bicentennial League player from our area. 

The editors of www.golfbuckscounty.com loved dozens of offerings. One new one, though, was the pick of the litter, the one club that stood out among the crowd. 

From Batavia, Illinois and the Tour Edge folks came our Club of the Crowd - the Tour Edge Supermedal Exotics XJ1 Driver.

This offering, well, was almost too good to be true. 

First of all, the Tour Edge Exotics line has been a big success. Second, the designers researched and developed a new offering that it not only hotter but also accurate for everyday players. 

Designed for those with slower swing speeds (e.g. less than 100 MPH) its design allows a boost in one's effective swing speed and turned out 83MPH swinger into a player whose results were more like those of someone whose swing speed approached 100 MPH. Of equal importance, it's design allowed mishits to travel well and into the fairway. 

Technically, the Supermedal has a ultra lightweight 9-1-1 titanium chassis combined with Tour Edge President and Founder President Dave Glod's desire of a driver that helped those with slower swing speeds to get that added boost saw the addition of a tungston sole. 

Helping the cause is a Fujikura Air Speeder shaft that adds to the swing speed of the average player.

The JXI bedazzled our editors, so much so that after spending a half hour hitting the marvelous club and discussing later with several PGA of America pros, took them back to the Tour Edge tent to sample the driver.

To a person, the most heard comment was, well, "Wow".

Such an entry into the competitive field, there is a stumbling block the retail cost of the JXI has a price point just shy of $700. But, consider this, it's an investment in distance and accuracy. Recommendation: pay close attention to this club, visit a participating dealer and take a test drive! 

17 Nov
2016

Golf a four season sport - Jersey Gems

Written by Bob Oliver

Well, there you have it. Don't put your golf clubs in the deep recesses of the garage or basement for the winter. 

It's a given there has been frost on some recent cold Bucks County mornings. Heck, it will probably snow for Christmas. But look, many have been playing their best in recent months after a great season on area courses. Why mess up that great swing by putting one's clubs away and starting over next spring?

Why go through the agony of rekindling that grooved swing? Playing to your lowest handicap of the year at a time when you haven't hit a golf ball in months?

Okay, we are not all jet-setters who can dump the clubs in a G-4 and head to Florida or another warm location. 

Here's are a few suggestions.

1) When the weather gets into the 50s without a great deal of wind, make sure the clubs are in the car and get out even if only for nine holes. Winter golf is generally faster as less people are on the golf course.

2) Basements are great places for practice swings. Just make sure the munchkins aren't lurking around. 

3) Make some notes of the great, and not so great things you accomplished in 2016. Think of a plan to build on them. 

4) Sneak away for a long weekend of golf, using a cheap air fare to the south or anywhere warm. If that doesn't fit the budget, think of a drive that will accomplish much of the same. Winter golf at the Jersey Shore, Ocean City Maryland, WIlliamsburg Virginia can be found inexpensively and the weather can be much warmer than Bucks County. Not significantly warmer, but warmer.

While thinking of these items think about places you want to play in 2017. My goal this year was to play 30 "new" courses. That is, courses I've never played before. I am sitting on 29 and am ready for another!

Make sure you don't miss playing great courses within driving distance. Two of my particular favorites are the Atlantic City Country Club and Shore Gate Golf Club, both on the Jersey Shore and within a 90 minute ride with traffic.

Atlantic City, renovated in 1999 by Tom Doak, is a classic seaside gem. Located in Northfield, just a couple miles from Atlantic CIty, the "Home of the Birdie" provides an outstanding test of golf with upscale amenities. Great challenge on the course, great food inside the clubhouse. And a wealth of history.

There have been six USGA events held at Atlantic City, including the 1948 (Babe Zaharias), 1965 (Carol Mann) and 1975 Women's Open (Sandra Palmer). It was also the site in 1980 of the first Senior PGA Tour event, the PGA Inaugural Seniors.

Atlantic City and its sister courses, Ballamor and Scotland Run, have long been rated among the best places to play in the state of New Jersey. It's a quick ride and great test.

We've long loved the Shore Gate Golf Club, located just off the Garden State Parkway Exit 17, where one finds a true sparkling oasis amid the Jersey pines. Shore Gate (see story in the New Jersey section of courses on this site) has always been a top-notch layout, but if possible has only gotten better with age.

The fairways are superb, the greens are tantalizing but smooth and true, and the overall venue outstanding.

Recent years has seen the integration of new fescue which frames the course, giving a pleasing view and direction of where one goes with their tee ball. It also can be found near bunkers, almost like a do not hit here sign.

Shore Gate is a must play shore course.

As Sayresville's Jon Bon Jovi sings, "Who says you can't go home again??