2013 GOLF ROAD TRIP
2013 GOLF ROAD TRIP - 5,025 miles! What a great trip this summer, did it in our little MINI COOPER CLUBMAN which averaged over 40 MPG. Our traveling partners, MICHAEL & DENA HOWLETT from Flint Michigan followed in their Prius throughout the heartland of this country. It's good to travel with others who enjoy playing the game of golf and who find excitement around every corner and every bunker. We have been playing with Mike and Dena for nearly 20 years and have enjoyed every minute of those fast paced years. No matter how far apart we may end up we find the way and the time and somehow the funds to enjoy our common interest of golf.
Starting of on Monday July 8, 2013 and from Manassas, Virginia to Pittsburgh, PA, not a long drive, but a most breathtaking trip. Our first stop was to visit PITTSBURGH FIELD CLUB almost across the river from OAKMONT Country Club. DAVID MARTIN the head PGA club pro for over 30 years made arrangements for my wife and I to play on Tuesday, but heavy rains made that impossible at that time. Nevertheless, the design of the course is a great test of golf and quite an eye to the beholder. Built in 1915, just before the Great War it has stood the test of time. Magnificent in its upkeep and surrounding beauty. It is built on the top of a small mountain and flows down into its own valley, once the host to the 1937 PGA tournament and since then many tournaments have played at the Field Club. We cannot wait to come back and play the course hopefully in clear sunny weather. Interesting fact regarding the Field Club is that Donald Ross is attributed to a redesign of the course, a statement that can not be substantiated by any facts that the club has on hand. The DRS (Donald Ross Society) would like to claim still another course that was designed by Alex. So I gues they wil have to revamp their statistics down to 599 from the 600 number they are so proud to display. I think it is also most unusual that Ross would design courses without ever stepping onto the gounds to evulate the terrian. But enough of that now. Next stop. Arriving in Michigan the next day and visiting many of our dear close friends, we had the opportunity to tee it up on 3 of the 1000 courses that dot the shoreline and all the nooks and crannies found there. One special course is FORREST DUNES located mid state near Roscommon. It is also rated as one of the top courses in a state that parades more then most states. One of the special attractions is the availability at Forrest Dunes is to now stay on the grounds, enjoy a great meal and play a world class course, designed by Tom Weiskopf.
We decided to drive around to Cheboygan, Wisconsin for our next venture, WHISTLING STRAIGHTS. One reason was that for two cars to cross at Ludington via Ferry would cost about $400.00 and that amounts to some nice meals at the AMERICAN CLUB. So we drove, what a beautiful trip that was, crossing the Big Mac and enjoying a less populated area of the world. On Tuesday July9, our day to warm up. We arrived at our first venue, the RIVER course at BLACKWOLF RUN, and when I say we warmed up, I really mean it. The next day it was the STRAIGHTS course. The Straights course is a caddie only course, which we were thoroughly looking forward to. We were not looking forward to the 95 degree temperature and the boiling sun. The Marshall came by every other hole and gave us a towel saturated with ice of which we immediately put under our hats, mainly to cool down our brains. By the 9th hole the heat and sun had robbed us of practically all of our energy; we took as long a break as you could. Cece, my wife looked as if she was close to a heat stroke, but the break was worth it, we cooled down, hit a great shot on the 10th, birdied the hole as I did with the first hole, life was looking good. When we arrived up at the lake the cool breeze off the lake was just what the doctor ordered, the rest of the round was delightful, finished with a birdie, I'll be back. Oh by the way, pared both par 3's on the back side and birdied the par 4 along the lake.
A meal some sleep and hibernating under the cool shower head for what seemed like a life time helped refresh us for the next adventure, the IRISH course. Still 95 degrees still walking with a caddie, but hillier and less breeze off the lake, but we survived and flourished. The IRISH course reminds me of my grandfather being schooled in Ireland in the late 1870's and into the 80's. He took his sticks but alas no courses there. Remember there are only about 30 golf courses in the world through 1886. SO Alex built a basic course in Ireland to hone his skills and keep sharp. On Friday we went back to the MEADOWS course at BLACKWOLF RUN. Played well, much cooler only about 88 degrees, felt like a needed a down jacket compared to the previous days. Since my MINI COOPER CLUBMAN was totally packed we were ready to head south for our next leg of the journey, so off to OMAHA, Nebraska we headed.
I understand why Alex ended up in Nebraska and eventually OMAHA. It must have reminded him so much of the terrain from SCOTLAND. We were invited by JOHN FRILLMAN former head pro of the HAPPY HOLLOW Country Club for over 30 years. He has communicated with me for a few years, very interested in Alex's involvement in the development of golf in Nebraska and specifically in Omaha. He invited us to play the course, don't be fooled by his age, he can still shoot the lights out and clobber you in a minute, still an excellent golfer and a US Open contender a few years back. One of the highlights of the experience was having a meal in the club house right under the plaque that was presented to the club by the Nebraska Golf Hall of Fame; it was a photo opp that made the experience quite special. Just a side note on Omaha, I was not expecting to see such a beautiful CLEAN city as was displayed there. I could easily make Omaha my home.
If one ventures to Nebraska and misses the spectacular SAND HILLS in western Nebraska then one would miss out on some of the most fantastic golf they will ever play in this country. Of course, the number 8 rated course in the United States and 11th in the world is the SAND HILLS Golf Club designed by Coore and Crenshaw. It is also very private and everyone I contacted was not able to get us a tee time. Eventually Ben Crenshaw contacted Dick Youngscap who is the man that makes things happen there. He was our host and we were his guests. We also were able to procure one of the cabins on Dismal River. If you are tired of the hustle and bustle of the urban life, head for the Sand Hills of Nebraska. The major golf course architects are all heading for this venue. Oh, by the way my score, shot a 74, getting real close to shooting my age. Alex did it for the first time at 70 and did so for the next 7 years. Our traveling partners the Howlett's told us when they were playing Bandon Dunes in June a player there said the greens at SAND HILLS Golf Club are the best greens he has ever played, I must agree they were flawless and true. Nebraska is fast becoming the new Scotland as folks are venturing or trekking there for world class golf and an experience of a lifetime. Pack yopur bags and head off to golf asyou have never experienced. Oh by the way, drop me a line and let me know what you think of ebraska golf.
This area of Nebraska is where Alex decided to build his first golf course, and as it was, the first course played in the U.S. in 1887. I know Alex would be amazed to see what is happening there today. Well, we finished playing golf in Nebraska and then just enjoyed our road trip. Altogether we played 10 different courses, some the top rated courses in this country. We played 13 rounds of 18 holes, scored fairly well. My wife, Cece, thoroughly enjoyed the courses as well. She recently took lessons from Dan Norwood, grandson of Joe Norwood, who worked for my grandfather in 1906 at Wright & Ditson of Boston, Mass. Alex actually taught Joe Norwood how to play golf and then how to teach golf. Joe then taught Dan Norwood to do the same. So in actuality, Cece was taught by Alex my grandfather. She takes the game seriously, studies the anatomy, understand the physics of what makes a ball fly and then incorporates those skills in her swing. It is beauty to behold.
Leaving Nebraska our trip took us to Texas and eventually to Lufkin to catch up with Mary Findlay, my dear sister in law. Mary had a few artifacts that she wanted to pass on to me from Alex, including Queen Vistoria's walking stick, some of Alex's old personnel Golf clubs and a mountain of documents regarding early golf in the U.S. As I filter through the material more will appear on this web-site. From there we ended up driving back through Tennessee and then on to Virginia. A most exciting three weeks. Next year we plan on revisiting New England and then on up to New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia, Canada. I understand there are some pretty neat golf courses up there. Next trip may be a caravan of enthusiastic golfers who want to play some of the oldest golf courses in these states. Ironically most were designed and built by my grandfather, Alexander H. Findlay, the Father of Golf in the United States.