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!

Home

30 Mar
2014

NC Sandhills superb destination

Written by Bob Oliver

 

 

 

PINEHURST, NC --- If you have never been to the Pinehurst, Southern Pines, “Sandhills” area, then you just don’t know what you are missing.

 

This quaint North Carolina locale is known for its golf courses – the Number 2 Course at Pinehurst Resort will host this year’s USGA Men’s and Women’s Open Championships – but also its serenity.

 

Unlike some mega-golf destinations, the Pinehurst area has all one could want from a vacation spot but also the serenity, comfort and quiet one wants when they also want to kick back and enjoy like.

 

Still, being golfers, we do want to sample fairways and greens. And while the Pinehurst Resort is the marquis name in these parts, it’s not the only drawing card.

 

For my money, the two resorts directly across Midland Road from each other – Mid Pines and Pine Needles – are superb spots. Both feature Donald Ross designed layouts, and both have been ranked in national magazines “best” lists. Pine Needles has hosted three Women’s U.S. Opens on its own.”

 

“We offer our guests all they could want in a resort destination, but of course the focal point is great golf,” explains Kelly Miller, president of the Pine Needles/Mid Pines ownership company. Pine Needles offers a traditional Ross design, and Mid Pines is an outstanding challenge from another era.”

 

Much has been made of the restoration of Pinehurst Number 2 in preparation for the two national championships, but those in the know are aware that Mid Pines underwent a restoration of its own. The course opened in 1921, and over the years developed such a following that players had it ranked either first, second or third on their list of places to play in the area.

 

Architect Kyle Franz resurfaced the greens to hybrid Bermura grass, making the flat stick challenges fast and firm. The rough has been thinned, the bunkers re-worked with harder sand, and the overall challenge has been beautified, spruced up and manicured into an even better challenge.

 

Mid Pines is a walking course, given its compact 91 acres, as greens and tees are close together and there are none of the long walks between holes that abound in residential courses build over the last 40 years. While there are some houses along the perimeter of the layout, inside those 91 acres are just golfers and nature.

 

Pine Needles has many similarities with Mid Pines but it’s also worlds apart. Fairways are a little wider, and the green complexes a little more dastardly, but on both courses Mr. Ross blended the sand hills with stately pines, and hospitality second to none.

 

The spirit of Peggy Kirk Bell and her family abounds, as comfort, challenge and just the love of the game of golf is apparent. A half dozen USGA Championships have graced the fairways of Pine Needles, including three U.S. Women’s Opens. Who can forget wins by Annika Sorenstam, Karrie Webb and Cristie Kerr at Pine Needles?

 

History abounds both Pine Needles and Mid Pines. One never knows who you might run into at the resorts, from dignitaries to golf professionals, and while today each resort features all the amenities one expects from first class destinations, each also has its own charm. Sitting on the veranda at Mid Pines, watching the golfers play their final hole, is a treat.

 

The eyes of the golf world will be on Pinehurst in June, when on back-to-back weeks the Men’s and Women’s US Open will be on venerable Number 2, which underwent a re-tooling by Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore in2010. The site of Payne Stewart’s magnificent win will challenge the best golfers in the worlds.

 

While in the area visitors may sample Tobacco Road, the fine creation from the mind of Mike Strantz, or some of the areas scores of other courses. Price points for golf in the area are as wide as a friendly fairway, with packages making accommodations and golf affordable.

 

There is no shortage of challenges in the Sandhills area of North Carolina. It’s pristine, picturesque, perfect Pinehurst and serene, stellar Southern Pines. A good example is Southern Pines Golf Club, a Ross original design, and The Dormie Club, a recent offering off the pencils of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw.

 

Don’t miss it.

 

CHIP SHOTS:  Pinehurst No. 2 is ranked as the number one ranked course in North Carolina in the Golfweek Magazine rankings, and right behind in order are Mid Pines, Dormie Club and Pine Needles. Also in the top 10 are Tobacco Road and Pinehurst No. 4 and 8….All of the clubs in this story feature outstanding practice facilities.

 

21 Feb
2014

Golf's Future might be non-conforming

Written by Bob Oliver

 

Do you consider yourself a golf traditionalist?

Do you have an official USGA handicap?

Do you regularly play in USGA sanctioned or governed events?

Do you religiously follow the Rules of Golf?

Congratulations!

According to many studies, you are in a select group of about 20% of the golfing public. The rest of the golf world bends the rules a little, a bit or a whole lot?

Don’t believe that statement? Consider your last round of golf. Did you hit a ball out of bounds? Did you take a stroke and distance penalty, taking the walk of shame back to the tee to try again hitting three?

How about that unfair lie in a middle of the fairway divot that you tapped an inch onto green grass? Or maybe the gimme putts you and your playing partners granted? Or how about that extra driver you were trying out, bringing the number of clubs in your golf bag to 15?

Did you open your round allowing more than one tee ball on the first hole to get warmed up? Did you hit a second ball after a poor shot? Did you actually card a six on that hole and not a seven?

Does any of this remotely sound familiar? Be honest.

While 20% of all golfers religiously follow the rules, the vast majority of golfers enjoy the game by taking some liberties with the rules. Not every stroke, not every round, but somewhere along the way. That’s a fact.

Friends, golf is a game to be enjoyed. And while noone would condone playing in a USGA event and not following the rules, in a friendly game most golfers will manage to have some leeway in with the rules.

Golf is a hard, difficult, challenging, frustrating, you name it game. It has been said you play your foul balls, but the question is whether you count all the strokes!

Ask most golfers and you will hear how the game costs too much, takes too long to play and enforces too many rules that ruin the fun of it. These are players who never will play in the United States Open but enjoy being on the course. The game has seen its players reduced by nearly 20% from its heyday of 30,000,000 at the height of the Tiger Revolution. More golf courses are closing rather than being built, get greens fees are increasing.

The stewards of the game have tried to get more involved, from The First Tee program to the USGA’s Tee It Forward program. Still the numbers dwindle. So, the question is: how does the game turn from its tailspin and begin to accelerate growth?

Taking a page from skiing, which saw snowboarding introduced to goose participation, stories have been reported about Frisbee Golf and Foot Golf as ways to enjoy the concept of the game without all the frustration.

Others talk about Hack Golf, a concept where the USGA Rules of Golf are thought of but not necessarily followed. Thought of as a way to Grow the Game, Hack Golf supports different avenues to spark interest in the game. It uses 15 inch cups on the putting green to reduce the heartache of putting to a small target. It features large faced, non-conforming clubs including some that can be used playing a larger golf ball on a shorter course. As many as 100 existing courses are allowing such play.

According to Taylor Made, their MOAD club (“Mother of all Drivers”) allows beginners to hit the ball 160-180-yards off the tee. Hit it 180 on a 300-yard hole and all of a sudden that beginner can have a shot at a few pars that just might get them coming back to the course in the future rather than walking away from a too hard of a game.

Blasphemy to the traditionalists, when one of those newcomers graduates to “regulation” golf there might actually be some growth in the game.

Face it, basketball played in one’s driveway isn’t regulation. Nor is the game of HORSE or Follow the Leader. Don’t have 10 players? You can play one-on-one or any other variation and not be looked upon as a rule breaker.

Several smaller ice hockey rinks have been developed that feature three-on-three play, and others have temporary boards across the ice that allow half ice or third ice games for youth players.

In the golf world, there is more of a demand for Pitch and Putt and Nine Hole Courses, where a “round” of golf can be played in an hour or so, addressing the time and cost issue. Point is, the market is there for the playing of the game, just not by the traditional USGA Rules of Golf.

That’s not a bad thing. It might – despite distasteful looks from the traditionalists – save the game.