Welcome to the first part of a very special series of episodes with friend of the pod and regular guest Patrick Koenig, who chatted with me about his solo and buddies trips to Ireland and Scotland this summer. When we recorded the pod, I mentioned he needed to come out to the NYC area and I claimed I could arrange tee times at Fishers Island, National Golf Links of America and Shinnecock.
Well, I lied and failed. I was only successful with NGLA (October 10) and Fishers Island (October 11), but we did get a bonus nine holes into the mix at Hay Harbor, the “other,” arguably the more exclusive club on FI, so we were told. Well, I’m not sure if Patrick has forgiven me yet, but hopefully he will soon.
In part 1 of 2 (maybe 3?) of this podcast episode, Koenig and I chat about playing Fishers Island, which is like the Holy Grail for golf architecture geeks, especially MacRaynor fanatics, like myself and Koenig. If there’s a C.B. Macdonald or Seth Raynor (Macdonald’s protege and co-architect on several projects) course, then I definitely want to play it and there’s a 99% chance I’ll love the experience and it’ll instantly become a favorite.
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Fishers Island is considered Raynor’s greatest masterpiece — and it was also his final project. Unfortunately he passed away just before the course was completed. With Fishers, Raynor had a plot of land along the imperfect coastline of the island that only stretches seven miles long. He used his ingenuity to carve out some of his finest renditions of template holes, along with his several of his own creation, to produce a quixotic magnum opus. It’s hard to describe the magical experience of playing Fishers, a challenging yet fun test that requires imagination, skill and strategy. The green complexes are intricate, demanding and brilliant, and Raynor doesn’t leave much room for error on approach shots.
It was my second trip to Fishers Island and it was just as special as the first — if not more memorable since I was in such a daze that I feel like I blacked out. Koenig and I rave talk about the incredible experience and the “shabby genteel” (or gentile), spirit of the island. It’s a throwback to another time and I’ve been to many similar type of places in New England, but Fishers in a league of its own.
While some of the “oldest” and most affluent families own homes that have been passed down throughout many generations and spend their summers on Fishers, you wouldn’t know it because any overt displays of wealth are frowned upon (i.e. no golden toilets, gaudy marble fountains or waterfalls, etc.). That’s what’s I love about it — it’s not pretentious and you don’t feel like you’re walking on eggshells, like other exclusive clubs of similar pedigree; rather it’s an incredibly welcoming and special place. Bottom line: It is simply a national treasure that must be preserved and guarded at all costs!
Koenig and I discuss the little details and intricacies of the design and routing of all 18 holes, and emphasize our favorites. You would be hard-pressed to find a better stretch of holes than nos. 3-12 at Fishers.
Check out the photos that we’ve posted on our websites (or will be posting separately in the next few days) and social media accounts. Koenig brought his drone and snapped some mind-blowing photos that have probably been circulated and forwarded to just about everyone on the island, along with golf architecture enthusiasts on the East Coast.
Oh, if you’re not already following Patrick on Instagram, what is wrong with you??
[Photo credit: Patrick Koenig]