Monday, February 26, 2018

Bethpage (Yellow) - Farmingdale, NY

Easily the 3rd Best at Bethpage, which is a pretty good compliment give the quality of the Red and Black courses. It's not far behind the Red in terms of quality and far, far superior to the Blue or Green courses. The first hole is very wide off the tee and has a centerline bunker about 200 yards from the tee. I'd almost call this a Bottle hole, but the preferred angle to the green is from the wider side of the fairway rather than the narrow, more difficult side. The 5th hole is also very interesting in that the fairway slopes sharply from right to left at about 200 yards from the tee and then the green is elevated about 20 feet above the fairway. The 11th hole is a very cool short par 3, topping out at just over 300 yards, the fairway pinches in significantly at around the 200 yard point (note the abundance of hazards at 200 yards from the tee...the course was built in the early 20th century and has remained fairly original) and leads to a very good green. The highlight of the course, however, is the set of par 5s. It's not often that a course can be said to be highlighted by par 5s, but certainly that is the case here. Holes 7 and 17 both dogleg to the left, but they are far from the same hole. 7 plays downhill off the tee and level to the green. 17 plays through a valley, but the landing area for the fairway is at the same level as the tee. Both holes are fantastic and both right at the reachable in 2 range. The 10th hole is the other par 5 and is a real 3 shot hole. Both the tee shot and second shot must be played with precision to have a good 3rd shot. The hole is a double dogleg, playing right off the tee and then left back to the green. The green is on the same level as the fairway, but 50 yards short of the green leading up to the front edge, there exists a significant valley that can make the third shot very difficult. This is certainly not a hole where the second shot is just "another" shot to be blasted at. Overall, I'd actually say that this set of par 5s is the best set on all the courses at Bethpage (consider on the Red course, the 5th hole is incredible, but the 16th hole is, quite frankly, just bad. Then, on the Black course, the 4th hole is world class, and could be better, but 7 is very average and 14 is just a mundane slog). I love the Black course, but this course is really, really good.

Variety of Design: Par 5s have good variety in yardage, one is reachable in 2 with a decent drive, one is on the edge even with a good drive, the other is outside the range to be reached in two. Par 4s have relatively good variety, ranging from 429 to 313 in yardage from the back tees. The par 3s have less variety in yardage, only spanning 166 to 188 yards. For variety in direction, 4 holes dogleg right, 4 holes dogleg left, and 7 holes are straight. (That adds to more than 14 because the 10th hole is a double dogleg) Solid. 6 out of 10

Flow of the Course: Course flows well. Difficult holes are generally followed by holes where the player can have a bit of a break. No abrupt changes in the course. 6 out of 10

Course Conditioning: Solid. A few small patches here and there with bare spots. Overall, OK. 5 out of 10

Walkability: Easily walked. Has some small hills but nothing that would make for anything really difficult. 8 out of 10 

Atmosphere: None. In fact, almost a negative number. Bethpage is very unique, but on busy days, the Yellow and Blue courses can be like zoos. 1 out of 10

Total Score: 55 out of 100. Easily the third best course at Bethpage and probably a better value for the money than the Red course for out of state visitors. 

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Course #250

A few weeks ago I was able to play my 250th different course. I was fortunate to play at St. Catherine's Golf Club in Canada, which was also my first course outside the US. In keeping with the post that I made after #200, Let's look at some stats and interesting tidbits.

From Course 100 to Course 200 took less than 3 years, from 200 to 250 took 4 years and 9 months. So I'm playing new courses at a slower pace, several reasons for that.

Played 2 new courses in one day: 11
Played 3 new courses in one day: 2
Played 4 new courses in one day: 1 (no change, this is a difficult feat)

Colors: Silver, Emerald, Gold, Scarlet, //Red, Black, Blue, Green, White

Water features: Creek, Bay, Harbor, Brook, Lake, River, Bayou, Loch, //Spring

Land features: Park, Banks, Shoreline, Point, Hills, Landing, Farms, Ridge, Hollow, Meadow, Plantation, Farm, Mountain, Valley, Canyon, Trails, Dunes, Beach, Isle, Shores, Dunes, Pit, Forest, //Trail, Shore, Dale, Cove, Orchard

Plants and natural objects: Pine, Cypress, Rock, Palms, Stone, Sage, Azalea, Peach, Dogwood, Oak, //Magnolia, Marshwood, Cedar

Animals: Rockfish, Hummingbird, Eagle, Quail, Fox, Bear, Raptor, Rooster, Callippe, Horse, Moose, Fish, //Shark

 21 States, 2 nations

Courses beginning with every letter in the alphabet other than X, Y, and Z. (No change)

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Francis A. Byrne GC - West Orange, NJ

This is a municipal course in Essex County, New Jersey. It is also designed by Charles Banks, making it one of the few golf courses that the average person can play designed by the Macdonald/Raynor/Banks crew. The course is not perfect and is certainly not National Golf Links or Fisher's Island. That said, it is easy to see what once was a tremendous golf course if you take the time to look. I've worked a bit with Anthony Pioppi, Executive Director of the Seth Raynor Society, to try and determine what template holes exist on the course. Years (scores of years, even) of degraded maintenance practices make this difficult. Indeed, the forward part of the Biarritz green was already in disuse as early as 1954 according to some old aerial photographs. So, a tentative listing of template holes:
1. Road (confirmed)
2. Biarritz (confirmed)
3. Punchbowl (partial, tentative)
4. Sahara (tentative, severely degraded)
5. Short (confirmed)
10. Bottle (tentative)
13. Cape (tentative, green only)
14. Eden (Confirmed)
15. Raynor dog-leg (tentative)
18. Home (Confirmed)

There are several other holes that I believe are likely template holes, but I can't yet place them certainly enough in a category to include them. With that, on to the ranking:

Variety of Design: The course has only one par 5 and it's the first hole, the Road. That hurts the course a bit. The par 3s have great variety, ranging from 235 to 140 yards. The par 4s range from 360 to 465 yards, so a fair variety in distance, but limited variety in direction. Of the 15 holes, 10 are straight, 3 work to the right, and 3 work to the left. The green sizes, while shrunken and degraded from their original sizes, all fit the shots required and work well. 7 out of 10

Flow of the Course: The course ebbs and flows through the round quite nicely. The start is difficult with the only par 5 followed by a very difficult par 3, but the course gives the player a break on the 3rd hole. The Short hole appears as the 5th hole and, while severely degraded from its original state, still mandates precision from the player. On the back nine, the holes alternate between difficult and moderate from 10 to 13, before playing the final par 3 and then 2 very difficult holes before coming out for a nice closing set in the 17th and 18th. 7 out of 10

Course Conditioning: Not very good. The fairways were reasonably smooth, but they were still spotty and were very damp. The greens were very soft and bumpy as well. The greens are maintained at slow speeds in an effort to improve pace of play; that should be commended. The course was just fair in condition. 4 out of 10

Walkability: The course can be walked very easily. There were a few significant hills, but one of the players in my group was in his 60s and was able to walk the course fine. There were a few slightly longer walks, but nothing major. 7 out of 10.

Atmosphere: None. It's a standard municipal course, not really the place to go expecting some cool vibe. Just pay the fee and go. And that's fine. 1 out of 10

Total: 58 out of 100. In my opinion, this is the best public golf courses I've played in New Jersey. I've played 3 courses in Gulfweed Magazine's Top 15 best in state (Neshanic Valley, Hominy Hill, and Galloping Hill). This course tops all of them by a pretty wide margin.

Pictures and a hole-by-hole look at the course will come shortly.