More often than not, when we leave things to chance they work out just dandy. ¬†On this occasion we got stung, giving a gentle reminder that life‚??s no breeze. ¬†Won‚??t do us any harm at all.
There might‚??ve been two or three days this year when we‚??ve left it literally to the last minute in organising our golf. ¬†When we woke up this morning we didn‚??t know where we‚??d be playing, but felt comfortable(ish) that something would materialise. ¬†A dozen or so phone calls and a bunch of emails later, there was still nothing on the radar. ¬†Hatching plans the Monday after 4th of July weekend on Long Island is harder than hard. ¬†It‚??s very hard ‚?? but we should‚??ve known that. ¬†Amateurs...
We slept in Dodgy last night out at Montauk Point, in a carpark near the famous lighthouse (commissioned by President George Washington himself). ¬†A sweet spot. ¬†We even had the luxury of a public bathroom for our convenience, and a beach a 4 iron away. ¬†I blew away the cobwebs with an early morning dip in the Atlantic, and sat on a comfortable rock to ponder life for a while. ¬†
Mike and I parked up at a caf√© in Montauk; had ourselves a fulsome breakfast (first time I‚??ve ever ordered an omelette - Result); and made the most of their free Wi-Fi for an hour or three. ¬†Montauk‚??s right out at the tip of Long Island, past the super affluent part of the Hamptons, and has a relaxed vibe. ¬†Quite a different scene to the likes of Bridgehampton and East Hampton (pictured below).
I had designs to take in some of the local sights before we golfed. ¬†So we shot down the road to Bridgehampton, then took a drive around East Hampton and the surrounding area. ¬†I‚??ve never seen houses like that. ¬†And they‚??re holiday houses, likely used for a couple of weeks a year. ¬†Decadent doesn‚??t quite cover it. ¬†If you‚??re not a local you certainly know it: car parking at the beaches is reserved for holders of East Hampton Village parking permits only. ¬†Egypt Beach (pictured below) looked like a great spot for a dip; but having Dodgy towed was a risk too great, so we moved swiftly on. ¬†To another beach, which was also resident parking only. ¬†Then another, and another...
We passed the Old Money club of Maidstone, which looked pretty special. ¬†They have a pretty classy looking links track, and a beach club a stone‚??s throw from the clubhouse. ¬†We thought about approaching one of the greenkeepers to ask whether we could sneak on for a quick 18, but thought better of it. ¬†Didn‚??t particularly rate our chances...
As the hour hand crept further around the dial we still had nowhere to play our golf. ¬†So around 4 o‚??clock we trucked back out to Montauk, to Montauk Downs state park. ¬†It‚??s a public track, much like Bethpage where we played yesterday, run by New York State. ¬†Quite a different kettle of fish to the clubs we‚??ve been privileged for frequent of late.
We tried our luck at getting a comp green fee, but it was the Manager‚??s day off and the ladies manning the fort didn‚??t have the authority to make it happen. ¬†So we reluctantly paid our first green fee of the year ‚?? a necessary evil in the circumstances. ¬†Boys gotta play.
A particularly officious looking mountain of a woman held guard at the starter‚??s box. ¬†Players would not proceed to the first tee until they got the nod; in the meantime, as in the Olympics, they would wait patiently by the start line. ¬†That famous old despot at Muirfield would‚??ve had nothing on this woman. ¬†A piece of work.
We were called to the tee about 5.37pm, with slim prospects of making it around by dark. ¬†Being the 5th of July and a scorcher, the locals were out in their droves. ¬†A packed field playing at a public course pace of play ‚?? 5 and a half hour rounds. ¬†Not my idea of fun, but...well...you know.
The course itself is a Robert Trent Jones Senior design, and is being reworked by the omnipresent Rees Jones (the so-called ‚??US Open doctor‚?Ě). ¬†Much hype had been made of the course by the ladies in the shed (‚??much better than Bethpage Black‚?Ě; ‚??one of the best courses you‚??ll play all year‚?Ě). ¬†I have to say I was disappointed, although it did have a few good holes. ¬†On one of the par 5s we hit driver 9 iron (I saw ‚??we‚?Ě because Michael and I played a scramble); on most of the par 4s we had less than an 8 iron in hand for our approach; and we were playing from the tips. ¬†So it‚??s short.
And (unsurprisingly) not in great nick. ¬†Mike and I decided however that we‚??d leave Montauk Downs better than we found it. ¬†On each green we repaired 20 pitch marks each that those before us hadn‚??t bothered to attend to. ¬†Given the pace of play was so slow we had ample time to perform these surgeries and line up on putts with a leisurely lack of urgency. ¬†
By the 14th hole it was so dark that the 3 ball ahead gave up the game. ¬†Needless to say that wasn‚??t an option for us, so we ploughed on and lamented not eating carrots for dinner the night prior. ¬†Down the final 3 holes we were really struggling to see the ball ‚?? both at our feet and once it was launched. ¬†Ironically enough this was when we played our best golf!
On 17 I hit a hot one 320 yards down the middle and on 18 Mike did the same. ¬†Never mind the fact that we didn‚??t know we‚??d dun good until we marched optimistically down the fairway. ¬†On neither occasion could we make out the outline of the short grass below. ¬†Then on 18 I managed to knock a wedge from 130 to a foot! ¬†At that time (circa 9.15pm) it was Pitch Black, and I hardly had an idea of where the green was, let alone the flag. ¬†A stroke of good fortune indeed. ¬†And a debacle.
Shattered and sweaty we took Dodgy back to the carpark at Montauk Point, to sleep as we did the night before. ¬†No shower; no dinner; a long day. ¬†But a good one to look forward to in the morning: National Golf Links followed by Shinnecock ‚?? surely the Double Header Of The Year. ¬†Masochists...
There are words, and proper nouns in particular, that are a pleasure to verbalise. ¬†They roll off your tongue, and even draw a smirk. ¬†Metedeconk (prounced ‚??meh-Tee-da-conk‚?Ě) ‚?? the name of today‚??s stop ‚?? falls this category. ¬†The club also falls in a category, among very good golf clubs, of excellence. ¬†We loved it; and are surprised at how low a profile it keeps given its pedigree. ¬†If I was a betting man I‚??d say it‚??ll hold a major tournament in the coming decade or two. ¬†Aside from having a solid 27 holes (granted, only 18 of which we played), it has very good facilities and a world class practice ground. ¬†
Mike‚??s putting together a wee video of our day there ‚?? in large part because the place was so photogenic and we took so many dam photos ‚?? but I decided a few accompanying words were more than justified.
Scott Kirkwood (of Muirfield / Gullane pedigree) is the Pro at Metedeconk, and was our kind host on the day. ¬†A charming man (although a Rangers supporter...). ¬†His Uncle David is a well known character in the world of hickory shafted golf, and keeps a shop in East Lothian that we‚??ll make a point of visiting in a few weeks‚?? time. ¬†Scott and his colleagues made us feel very welcome, and even allowed us into the members‚?? bar to watch New Zealand draw with Paraguay (a simultaneously triumphant and heart breaking result, ruling Us out of the next round). ¬†On occasions this year we‚??ve found our reception to be (marginally) less all embracing at private clubs when we haven‚??t been accompanied by a member. ¬†I make that as a fine point because really we have been welcomed with open arms everywhere. ¬†Anyway today we were guests of the club rather than a particular member, but found the hospitality to be as warm as anywhere we‚??ve been. ¬†A humbling experience.
Stevie a wee 16 year old kid from Jersey was our caddy. ¬†He‚??s a baseball player, not a golfer, but he‚??s spending his 2nd summer out here making a few bucks while his schoolmates are flipping burgers at McDonalds for minimum wage. ¬†He‚??ll go far. ¬†He‚??s also hanging out with a bunch of old guys that might give him a job in a few years when he gets spat out of adolescence. ¬†We enjoyed his youthful enthusiasm and couldn‚??t help but laugh when we saw him tearing down the fairways each hole before we teed off. ¬†Like Moses Kiptanui or Gabriel Salassi. ¬†Stevie would just disappear when we walked off the green; and re-appear 250 yards away. ¬†Brilliant.
The course itself is fantastic. ¬†Of the three 9s, we played #1 and #2. ¬†For tournaments they play #1 and #3. ¬†Had a storm not rolled in; and had we not had a traumatically sweaty sleep last night in Dodgy in the Caves Valley car park ‚?? we would‚??ve played 27. ¬†Because it was just awesome. ¬†Hard but fair. ¬†It‚??s a Robert Trent Jones Senior design, and rewards accuracy over length. ¬†Even from the tips we could‚??ve got away with hitting 2 iron off most tees, save for one or two genuinely long holes. ¬†The key really is to keep it on the (quite immaculate) carpet, because the rough is proper rough. ¬†As with yesterday, it‚??s Member Guest week, so the course was in Tip Top Shape. ¬†Fairly stiff breeze added another dimension, making for a stern test of golf indeed.
On some of the tees you stand there and can acutely feel your adams apple panicking in your throat. ¬†A sea of fescue and pine and sand ‚?? and not much bent grass, visibly at least. ¬†I haven‚??t been to Pine Valley yet (this Wednesday!) but I guess it must look pretty similar. ¬†Because they have 800 acres of land here, you don‚??t tend to see other holes often. ¬†Personally I don‚??t regard this feature as an intrinsically good one ‚?? in the sense that it makes the golf course a well designed one ‚?? but it does make for a serene atmosphere. ¬†Therapeutic, almost. ¬†Were it less humid we would‚??ve walked.
Check out Mike‚??s video later today: the images will really tell you most of what you need to know. ¬†A pure place.
Had we not been putting the world to rest with our new pal Keith ‚??til the early hours of the morning, I would‚??ve woken up today full of life and ready to take on DC. ¬†But inevitably things never go according to plan and so we found ourselves behind the 8 ball Today All Day. ¬†‚??Twas a good ‚??un though!
A GPS device would‚??ve been a good investment. ¬†It would come in particularly handy in a place like Washington, DC where the word ‚??traffic‚?Ě takes on a different meaning; where there are more cars on the road than insects in the skies. ¬†No matter. ¬†We still managed to navigate Dodgy across the river (from Alexandria, i.e. Keith‚??s place) to the memorial district. ¬†It‚??s probably not called The Memorial District, but I‚??ve adopted that term for the purposes of this blog. ¬†The MD‚??s where all the monuments are. ¬†¬†At least all the ones I‚??d ever heard of.
Quite an impressive affair driving past the Lincoln Memorial, and up to the World War II Memorial (which reminded me of Cleopatra‚??s Needle). ¬†We ditched Dodgy and got our walk on, with not a lot of time to burn. ¬†Circa one hour, actually ‚?? which you might say isn‚??t enough to take in the whole of Washington DC. ¬†Not even one bloomin‚?? museum, I can tell you! ¬†At least we snapped a few buildings and absorbed a bit of Atmosphere.
There are more folks walking round The Memorial District with cameras and kids in tow than at Disney. ¬†Naturally. ¬†And we were no exception ‚?? except for the kids bit. ¬†We were however the sweatiest couple of knackered Kiwis in the vicinity. ¬†Still, we maintained our composure in the sweltering heat and found our way back to base camp (with the help of Keith‚??s nephew, Kevin, whom we had dinner with last night and who would be joining us for golf). ¬†Next time I‚??ll set aside more time to take It All In.
Anyway ‚?? the golf. ¬†That‚??s what most of you are interested in, isn‚??t it? ¬†RTJGC was today‚??s venue; or Robert Trent Jones Golf Club for long. ¬†(RTJ Senior, in case any of you golfers are wondering). ¬†Apparently it‚??s the only track he laid out that he thought was good enough to give his good name. ¬†Who am I to argue?
RTJ is about an hour out of town, or about 6 hours in normal traffic. ¬†Two words: road works. ¬†But I digress. ¬†It‚??s a private club, a very private one in fact. ¬†You‚??ll hear different stories depending on who you talk to, but there are rumours circling about how many memberships you have / had to hold before you could join the club. ¬†Some have told us 2; some 3. ¬†Either way, it‚??s not your average family club ‚?? most members would likely have memberships at more...accessible places.
It‚??s not a country club. ¬†Wives are not allowed on the property unless accompanied by their husbands (assuming the member is the husband; if not, then vice versa). ¬†How they let us riff raff on I‚??ll never know. ¬†There‚??s hardly anyone out there. ¬†A very peaceful, laid back place. ¬†With not a lot of traffic (of the golf variety) - circa 18,000 rounds a year, from memory. ¬†¬†¬†
Scott Furlong ‚?? the Chief Superintendent ‚?? was kind enough to have us out as his guests. ¬†After the eventful morning described above, a lazy lunch in the sparsely populated members‚?? bar was just the ticket before The Main Event. ¬†Great bar snacks, by the way. ¬†¬†
Scott had arranged for one of his assistants ‚?? a lad from Melbourne who goes by the name of Andrew Roberston, or Robbo ‚?? to join us for a hit. ¬†Good solid Australian, he was. ¬†I had the pleasure of riding round with AR (we took carts) and playing as his partner in The Match (which tragically we lost coming down the last). ¬†¬†Sorry Andrew. ¬†Kevin also had a bit of spare time on his hands ‚?? he works from home ‚?? so was only too happy to come out for a whack. ¬†Had he been born a few months later our fourball would‚??ve all been under 30 years of age ‚?? a rarity on this tour. ¬†Perhaps we should‚??ve branded it as: ‚??puregolf2010 ‚?? golfing with the geriatrics of the world, one by one‚?Ě. ¬†Now I don‚??t mean that, of course. ¬†Hyperbole, I think it‚??s called.
The course? ¬†Pretty dam long from the tips. ¬†Not surprising I guess when you consider they had 4 or 5 Presidents‚?? Cups here (all of ‚??em until they switched to Harding Park last year). ¬†Personally I was more partial to the back nine than the front ‚?? a prejudice motivated perhaps by the scenery along the 9 hundred and something acre lake. ¬†A house there for the summer would be better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, as indeed would most things.
An observation: 3 out of the 4 par 3s were all the same length. ¬†Good holes in their own right, yes ‚?? but had I been laying out the course I might‚??ve looked for a bit more variation. ¬†Then again Robert Trent Jones Senior knows a thing or two more than I do about golf course design so I‚??ll keep my mouth shut. ¬†Anyway as far as the rest of the place goes, the boy dun‚?? good. ¬†18‚??s a gem of a finishing hole ‚?? playing it every day would put carpet on your chest. ¬†
Back in the safety of the stately clubhouse, we perched ourselves back in the bar and put the world to rest. ¬†A couple of members overheard our story and we all got talking. ¬†Within a few moments we were all at one table; 5 hours later, at a shade after midnight, we were still at the same table. ¬†Mr. Davis kindly bought us dinner (sublime); and we heard a good few stories from a certain Mr. Avery, who has certainly Lived. ¬†Everyone was telling lies and the lies got thicker. ¬†By 12.20am the lies were pretty thick, and it was time to move onwards. ¬†Back to Alexandria, to conclude another manic day in the life of The Kiwis.
Thanks Scott & Andrew at RTJ for your first rate hospitality, and for letting us chop it round your very fine course. ¬†Thanks to Mr. Davis for keeping me healthy with the iron my lamb rack afforded. ¬†And thanks to Kevin for putting up with our rubbish and ferrying us to and from the course. ¬†A long day but a good one lads.