During the week of the Deutsche Bank Championship, I took the opportunity to play some golf instead of just watching it. Thanks to Mike Whitmer (THE man to know when you’re in the Boston-area) for putting me and John Paul Newport of the WSJ, a great mentor and a better friend, in touch with our gracious host Andy Neher, the President of Old Sandwich Golf Club in Plymouth, Mass.
I caught the golf bug a few months ago when I somehow started posting sub-80s relatively consistently for the first time since — I don’t know — 2006? Which was huge for me, considering “practice” is no longer in my vocabulary, unless we’re talking about the 20 balls I hit to warm-up. Believe it or not, my first round at OS was only my 9th of the year! Seems like a travesty, right? Right.
Well, I’m pretty sure the stars were aligned perfectly over Labor Day weekend because I played twice in three days (lots of exclamation marks).
From the moment I drove up to the bag drop, I felt 100% comfortable the entire time during my wonderful visit at O.S. The plan had been to play a quick 18 and be back at TPC Boston before 1pm (we got there at 8-830am). Um, I left at 4:45pm and J.P. was probably only a half an hour before me.
Back to the morning. We were greeted by Andy (our host and President of Club), who couldn’t have been more hospitable, along with his adorable golfing companion — a golden retriever names Samantha (pictures in “part 2″). She “plays” every round with him. Andy already had a four ball arranged, so unfortunately we didn’t get to play with him and Sammy.
Oh, and small world alert! When I first arrived, one of the caddies looked extremely familiar, but I brushed it off because it couldn’t be Terry, our awesome looper from The Medalist back in March. Turned out it was! He approached me at the range and it was a nice, grand reunion. Hugs!
Okay, back to Old Sandwich (O.S.) — or as I like to call, “paradise” or “heavenly mental-health retreat.” The track was designed by the famed course architect duo, Coore-Crenshaw (Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw). The course opened around 2006, and in my humble opinion, it is definitely one of the top new tracks/clubs in the country, meaning everything from the golf course to the facilities to the atmosphere is impeccable. In my book it’s number one. (For the record, my favorite golf course is still National Golf Links of America, though.)
This might sound silly, but I have a feeling I’m not alone. Usually, when I show up to a private club/country club, there’s that tinge of awkwardness, or like you’re walking on egg shells. You don’t want to say or do the wrong thing, and at some places, it seems like they enjoy and encourage that type of culture. The discomfort is normally brief, and sometimes it’s only figuring out where you’re going if it’s your first time there, or if you’re anywhere near the clubhouse — don’t think it’s ever when I’m actually on the golf course — and you feel like you’re in grade school.
I’m not saying it’s a big deal and I’m not verbalizing it very well because, well, it’s hard to explain, but most of you get the point. I mean, heck, I *still* don’t feel comfortable going to the club I grew up playing and practicing at every day as a junior golfer (and where my parents are members), and compared to others in the greater Seattle area, it isn’t even close to being the fanciest or most pretentious.
OK, that was kind of, sort of awkward, so back to the point.
After JP and I had finished our round and were chatting gleefully about our new love affair for O.S. over a delicious lunch in the clubhouse, I realized and said to him I was pretty sure this was the first time I’ve been at a private club, where I never felt that weird, awkward uneasiness. So that was cool.
This also might sound silly, but I put my golf shoes on back at the hotel because I didn’t know if there would be a ladies locker room, which is actually a relatively fair assumption. Clearly I’ve had experience where that’s been the case. Well, to my delight, there was a very nice one. When Andy gave J.P. and I a tour, he mentioned they were “very proud” of their ladies locker room before nearly pushing me through the doors to check it out. Kidding!
Now don’t even get me started on the practice facilities. I mean, wow, best I’ve ever seen. They made me almost WANT to practice. I even chipped, pitched and hit some bunker shots during my warm-up (something I probably haven’t done since I played competitively in college). When our caddie showed us the new short-game facility (which is near 10 tee if I remember correctly, I thought we were going to have to leave J.P. there because he was so giddy about it).
Oh, so the actual golf course? Incredible and tough. It was signature Coore-Crenshaw –you know, generous landing areas even if it looks intimidating from the tee; long, undulated and elevation changes (you will not find a flat lie even in the fairway); large, tough greens; tricky(ier) if they wind gets up or isn’t blowing the prevailing direction; and just an overall challenging yet fair and fantastic test of golf. You’ll use every club in your bag.
Here’s a testament to how much I liked the course and enjoyed the golf: I barely looked at my phone or checked Twitter. JP and I would remind each other to take a picture or video every now and then, but it was very limited.
Also, I only sent ONE tweet and that was a picture of the first tee. I replied to two or three after that because of the tweets I received from a few members who have been longtime followers (so they say!). Again, small world!
Like I said, I didn’t take many photos and wished I had so I could post them. Well, one of the guys who works at O.S, Nicky, was kind enough to offer and take me out in a cart, so I could snap shots of each hole and share them with you all. The pictures don’t do the course justice, but I got one of all 20 (yes, 20!) holes from the tee.
I’m actually writing this at the dentist’s office, so I gotta run, but more to come later!
J.P. found the ball pictured below in the shrubs. Don’t think it needs an explanation, but yes, that’s a “Pine Valley” logo on one side and the initials “ATM” on the other. So, this ball was lost by a guy, who is presumably a member at Pine Valley (or at least has played there), and has the initials ATM. No joke. Quite possibly the greatest thing I’ve encountered in a while (well, maybe until two days later when our caddie Terry found a Titleist “21,” but that’s a story I’m saving for later).