RGV Tour Blog

The Danger States!!

After Minneapolis, it was time to jump on the golf horse and giddy up. I only had a couple weeks left before snow started to fall on my remaining states. When I had originally planned the journey, these were the danger states. Winter and the end of the season were going to be near.

Some of the courses I reached out to were already closed for the season. I jumped in The RGV, found the warm spots and golfed hard and fast. First up in the danger states was North Dakota.

The very first thing I heard in North Dakota was “You’re wearing gloves to golf today? You must not be from around here.” It was 40 degrees. They are hardcore in Fargo. That guy probably wears a tank top and golfs in the snow. I would warm up nicely to North Dakota at Fargo Country Club.

 The 10th hole at Fargo Country Club.

The 10th hole at Fargo Country Club.

 That black sand down below is actually crushed coal that is used in all of the bunkers at Hawktree. It plays pretty nice.

That black sand down below is actually crushed coal that is used in all of the bunkers at Hawktree. It plays pretty nice.

After blazing across the state, I had stopped at Hawktree Golf Club for a round at one of the state’s best golf courses. Hawktree is a Jim Engh design and it did not disappoint.

Afterwards, I stopped by for an appearance on the WIngin’ it Wednesday radio show with Jesse Rostvedt.

 9 out 10 golfers agree, the friendliest goats in America are North Dakota goats.

9 out 10 golfers agree, the friendliest goats in America are North Dakota goats.

 No sand required to create some green side interest at Hawktree Golf Club.

No sand required to create some green side interest at Hawktree Golf Club.

With North Dakota in my rear view mirror, I found a pocket of perfect golfing weather down in South Dakota. The even better news was that I had Sutton Bay on the calendar. Back in 2009, the course sunk into nearby Lake Oahe, not to be deterred, Graham Marsh built a true gem on the higher and more stable land.

The course would certainly get more acclaim if it was in a more populated area. The course has a pure links feel to it and reminded me of places like Bandon Dunes and Sand Valley. I went around twice it was so good.

 The tee markers for the back tees at Sutton Bay are excellent.

The tee markers for the back tees at Sutton Bay are excellent.

 The double green on the front nine of Sutton Bay

The double green on the front nine of Sutton Bay

 Options abound on the 12th hole at Sutton Bay.

Options abound on the 12th hole at Sutton Bay.

You know what else is in South Dakota? Mount Rushmore is in South Dakota. The RGV Tour has provided me the opportunity to see pretty much all of America’s notable landmarks. I was not going to miss the opportunity to pound golf balls at those large presidential heads. Unfortunately, golfing is frowned upon at Mount Rushmore and I had to fake it.

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For the final round in South Dakota, I visited The Golf Club at Red Rock. It’s a wild little golf course in Rapid City with several dramatic holes. I was particularly fond of the final 2 finishing holes. I was not fond of the lip outs on the final two holes.

 The back tee on 18 at Red Rock

The back tee on 18 at Red Rock

 The short 17th at Red Rock

The short 17th at Red Rock

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As I pulled into Wyoming, I was on the verge of golfing history. In my lifetime, I had played golf in 49 states and Wyoming was the final state in the quest for golf in all 50 states. I half expected something awful to happen that would prevent me from completing the deed. But nothing would stand in my way. Like a true golf stud, I calmly made bogie on the 18th hole and raised my hands in victory!

 The 18th hole at Three Crowns was the final course needed for golf in all 50 states.

The 18th hole at Three Crowns was the final course needed for golf in all 50 states.

With sunny weather everywhere and most importantly, no snow, I decided to double dip in Wyoming at The Powder Horn. After months of midwest, I was finally getting some mountain views to go with those birdies.

I left the state of Wyoming a different man. I had golfed all of the states in America and even made a birdie in each one. I immediately updated LinkedIn with my new accomplishment. Now it’s time to sit back and watch the job offers roll in.

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 The tee markers at The Powder Horn.

The tee markers at The Powder Horn.

 Pops of color remain as The RGV Tour passes through Wyoming.

Pops of color remain as The RGV Tour passes through Wyoming.

With Wyoming in my rearview mirror, it was time to get nasty with Montana. I had time for two stops in Montana. The RGV Tour would golf Yellow Stone Country Club in Billings and then Black Bull in Bozeman. I would wrestle good with Yellow Stone but the real match would go down in Bozeman.

 Some fall hide and seek action at Yellowstone.

Some fall hide and seek action at Yellowstone.

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After an up and down front nine at Black Bull, the sparks would fly on the 10th hole. Into a blazing cold wind, I had 102 yards left for my approach into the par 5. My wedges had been wonky all day long, but this one headed right for the flag and would find the bottom of the hole for an eagle! That is 4 hole outs from over 100 yards on the tour. We have 11 eagles, but still no hole outs on par 3’s.

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 The RGV Tour is a big fan of the wild bunker grasses.

The RGV Tour is a big fan of the wild bunker grasses.

Out here on the RGV Tour, I insist that we keep things real. The best way to get into the soul of the golf scene is to visit the local municipalities to see how the real people play real golf. Places like PInecrest in Idaho Falls are just as much a part of the American golf landscape as the top 100 courses are. Tim was one of the most energetic head pros that I had met during my travels and the course was classic good.

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With no time to hit some of the gems that exist in Western Idaho, I moved onto Utah. Salt Lake City has some serious golf courses and I was able to find a couple that were still open for the season. I had time for 2 private courses and 2 public ones. The public stops were at Valley View and Thanksgiving Point. The private courses were Red Ledges and The Country Club of Salt Lake.

 Lots of color still to be found at Valley View in November.

Lots of color still to be found at Valley View in November.

 The 15th hole at Thanksgiving Point

The 15th hole at Thanksgiving Point

 The par 3 7th hole at Thanksgiving Point

The par 3 7th hole at Thanksgiving Point

 The par 3’s at Thanksgiving Point are particularly scenic.

The par 3’s at Thanksgiving Point are particularly scenic.

Red Ledges is a dramatic Jack Nicklaus design with some of the most difficult greens that I have witnessed from Nicklaus. More importantly, my caddy that day was one heck of a gentleman and previously a firefighter in NYC on 9/11. It was a saddening and humbling experience to listen to his story. However, I couldn’t have been happier that he was able to join me for a seriously good time on the links. The RGV tour has welcomed some fantastic people and John was certainly one of them.

 The 8th hole at Red Ledges finishes right into the rocks.

The 8th hole at Red Ledges finishes right into the rocks.

 The 6th hole at Red Ledges.

The 6th hole at Red Ledges.

 The “Branca Bridge” fronts the 11th green at The Country Club of Salt Lake.

The “Branca Bridge” fronts the 11th green at The Country Club of Salt Lake.

Only a handful of golf clubs were founded before 1900 and The Country Club of Salt Lake is one of those clubs. Since 1899, The Country Club has been delighting golfers. It would delight the RGV Tour in early November of 2018.

 Another view of the fantastic 11th hole at The Country Club of Salt Lake

Another view of the fantastic 11th hole at The Country Club of Salt Lake

 The 13th hole at The Country Club of Salt Lake.

The 13th hole at The Country Club of Salt Lake.

In a matter of several weeks, I had covered 6 massive states in the middle of America. The best part is that the weather had cooperated. The snow was supposed to fly but it hadn’t. Would Colorado cooperate? Would I make it to Nebraska? The tour headed into Colorado to find out.

It's getting cold in Minnesota

This is the part of the tour where the weather is going to start dictating the route and the final states of the journey. It is the middle of October now and the weather in Minnesota is getting questionable. It was snowing before I arrived, so all bets are off from here on forward.

Those bets would pay off in the beginning of the state with a round at Spring Hill. The trees couldn’t have been any oranger and the golf couldn’t have been any better. Just walking down these fairways felt like a fall wonderland. I even added bookend birdies on #1 and #18 to insulate the questionable play in between.

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The Minnesota hits were coming in a fury with Interlachen on the calendar the following day. I had a great caddie named Kailleigh on the bag and the sun was out. I also happened to be at the 499 birdie mark and today was going to be the day that I crossed over the 500 birdie threshold, or so I thought.

The ball striking was crisp and so was the fall air, but the birdie putts were not dropping. One by one, the putts would slide by the hole. Maybe not today I thought to myself. I had voiced my intention early on so I knew my gal on the bag, Kaileigh, was counting on me to make it happen.

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 The deliciously good 10th at Interlachen.

The deliciously good 10th at Interlachen.

 Fairway turtle is not super excited about my putting on the front nine.

Fairway turtle is not super excited about my putting on the front nine.

 The 13th hole gives you a view of Long Lake and access to snacks. Snacks not shown here.

The 13th hole gives you a view of Long Lake and access to snacks. Snacks not shown here.

The wind was howling as I hit my 5 iron approach 139 yards into the center of the 18th green. I had one final 35 footer for birdie or I was going to have to wait until tomorrow for birdie #500. “Here we go, this one is going in.” My group smiled, but no one really believed me.

As my wide swooping putt neared the hole, I realized this one has got a chance, but it needs to slow down. You know what slows down a putt real fast? The back of the cup! This baby dove in high side and our foursome cheered like someone had won the 2008 US Women’s Open trophy! Well, they may have cheered louder for Annika Sorenstam, but both of these things happened on the same green.

 The 18th green and the scene of birdie #500 on The RGV Tour

The 18th green and the scene of birdie #500 on The RGV Tour

With a good stretch of weather rolling through Minneapolis, the tour was set to take advantage the next day at Windsong Farms. The course was designed by the duo of John Fought and Tom Lehman. Fought has done other courses like Pumpkin Ridge and Crosswater in Oregon and Tom Lehman should need no introduction. True to it’s name, the wind at Windsong was howling hard.

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 All of the major golf colors are represented in bold fashion here.

All of the major golf colors are represented in bold fashion here.

The stunning fall colors continued at Hazeltine the very next day. If I took away one thing from Hazeltine, it is that those members love The Ryder Cup. Our host, Quinn, looked like he was actually on the Ryder Cup team. He had the full team garb on and everything.

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 Shots on the Payne Stewart bridge. What a legend Payne Stewart was.

Shots on the Payne Stewart bridge. What a legend Payne Stewart was.

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A good golf course should give the golfer a glimpse of what is to come later on in the round. One of my favorite examples of this is the 10th hole at Hazeltine. Not only is the 10th hole a good one, but it gives the golfer a peak of the 16th green. Thoughts like “Oh man, look at all of that water,” or “Tough pin, back right!” enter the golfer’s mind. All of a sudden, the golf course has you thinking about something else and building up anticipation for an exciting finish. This one approach somehow ties the entire back nine together.

 The approach on the 10th hole gives you a preview of the 16th green.

The approach on the 10th hole gives you a preview of the 16th green.

Next up, we had Brian, Dan, and Pat at White Bear Yacht Club. Brian, Dan and Pat were not just your ordinary group of RGV tour players. I would classify them as extraordinary. Brian has created something in his spare time called Birdies 4 Brains. This charity benefits a number of brain injury benefactors in the Minneapolis area. The best part about the whole deal is that it’s a one day, 100 hole, golf event. Learn more here.

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With it’s wild and hilly terrain, White Bear Yacht Club is a tremendously fun golf ride. It’s a Donald Ross design that really doesn’t remind you too much of a Ross until you get to some of the green complexes. Very little dirt was moved in the creation of White Bear and Ross used the land splendidly. The 17th hole above stuck out to me as one of the best par 3’s in the state and the little White Bear statue on 18 is one of the best cuddlers in the state as well.

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With daylight dwindling on my final day in Minnesota, we decided to push the limits at StoneRidge Golf Club. Once again, the gamble would pay off. We got some great photos from the sky and managed to get in an emergency 9. As the sun went down, the RGV jetted off to North Dakota. Who goes to North Dakota in late October to play golf? The RGV Tour does.

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Is Chicago one of the 3 best golfing cities in America?

While I haven’t golfed all of the cities in America, I am reaching the point where I have golfed the majority of them. One could even say that I am qualified to deliver an expert opinion on this topic. You have cities like Philadelphia, San Francisco, and New York that make a serious case for the top 3. I would put Atlanta in that discussion as well. Can Chicago crack the podium? Let’s jump into a tour of the Windy City to explore.

Back in 2004, I called Chicago home, but didn’t play much golf due to an intense love affair with alcohol. After giving up my passion for booze, I re established my efforts with golf. It has been 13 years since I touched the devil juice and I have spent the majority of those years golfing like a madman. The golf addiction is much more enjoyable and I haven’t been to jail yet because of it.

On previous visits back to Chicago, I had played big names like Shoreacres, Butler National, and Cog Hill. On this visit with the RGV Tour, I was going to test the depth of the city and get after a wide range of public and ‘tier 2’ courses.

After swooping up my good friend, John Kennelly, at O’Hare, we had just enough time to squeeze in Harbor Shores. John was going to be my copilot for the next several days. Copilot duties include eating pizza, telling jokes, and advising on road snacks. John is an expert in these 3 categories and was a natural fit for life on the road.

 The light was dim and I missed the opportunity to drone the Anchor bunker at Harbor Shores. I shall return.

The light was dim and I missed the opportunity to drone the Anchor bunker at Harbor Shores. I shall return.

Next up was a great public course called Mistwood in the suburbs of Chicago. The club vibes are friendly and the course was fun to play. Highlights included a moment where I thought my Instagram account had been deleted and a visit from Kyle Pecka of Smart Golf and Fitness. These guys bring the fitness into the game and are worth checking out in downtown Chicago.

 Co-Pilot Kennelly smokes a wedge into the 2nd green.

Co-Pilot Kennelly smokes a wedge into the 2nd green.

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 The often talked about par 5 cape hole at Mistwood.

The often talked about par 5 cape hole at Mistwood.

The Chicago area has two courses that end in ‘moor.’ I wish they had more of these ‘moor’ courses because the are freaking good. The two courses that I am referring too are Flossmoor and Exmoor Country Clubs.

At Flossmoor, we had the pleasure of teeing it up with RGV tour standout, Matt Considine. As far as I could tell, Matt is in the neighborhood of a +13 handicap and I am not sure why he isn’t on the PGA Tour. What he is doing, is creating something special in the Chicago area.

Matt has established something called NewClub. It is an organization of like minded golfers in the Chicago area that are looking to play golf, talk golf, and cut it up. The club has connections all around the area and is growing fast. If you are reading this, live in the Chicago area, and don’t know Matt, send him a message right away. He would be thrilled to chat with you. You can check out his story here.

 Here we see a familiar pose from Mattt Considine on the 2nd hole of Flossmoor Country Club

Here we see a familiar pose from Mattt Considine on the 2nd hole of Flossmoor Country Club

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 The finishing holes at Flossmoor are exceptionally good. Here we see the 16th green.

The finishing holes at Flossmoor are exceptionally good. Here we see the 16th green.

Every month or so a milestone achievement happens on The RGV Tour and this was the situation during the visit to Exmoor Country Club. It was course #300! In the last 8 months or so, the RGV Tour has played golf on 300 different courses. While most golfers will not get a chance to see 100 courses in their lifetime, I have had the privilege to visit many of the greatest courses in the country. I do not take this for granted.

Coming from a modest beginning as a low end public golfer, I cherish every opportunity that I get to visit these amazing places. The history, the clubhouses, and the courses fascinate me every single day. I am often asked if I get tired of golfing… does the grind get to me? The answer is an easy no. Each course is an adventure waiting to be discovered and every morning I wake up excited to put my exploring shoes on. Exploring shoes provided by TRUE Linkswear.

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 Look at that lush green goodness!

Look at that lush green goodness!

 In a fitting end to course #300, I birdied the 18th hole which is shown here.

In a fitting end to course #300, I birdied the 18th hole which is shown here.

One of the courses that I was looking forward to the most in Chicago was Beverly Country Club. Several members had reached out to me and I was fired up to pay them a visit. Although, we did not catch the course in it’s middle of summer form, you can feel the energy of the club ands it’s relatively youthful membership. The weather was overcast during the tour’s visit, but the Donald Ross design provides views of the skyline on clear days.

The highlight of the day came when I pumped my drive into the lip of the bunker on the par 4 6th hole. After punching out into the fairway, I was in full grump mode as I complained about how much I hate penal fairway bunkers. This is not a strategy that I recommend at all. Being grumpy is bad and nobody likes it.

However, I pulled out my wedge and fired one right at the flag. Because the approach is uphill we couldn't see what happened. The tweet should explain the rest. Grump mode reversed.

 You can barely see the Chicago skyline with the overcast skies.

You can barely see the Chicago skyline with the overcast skies.

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 Blazing good greens below!

Blazing good greens below!

 Image may or may not be photoshopped.

Image may or may not be photoshopped.

After an all world day at Beverly, we decided to leave the RGV in the parking lot and head on into town for the Cubs game. This was serious business as the Cubs were in a one game Wild Card playoff game. It was do or die time. 14 innings later, the Cub’s season was over and we had witnessed the longest game in Wrigley post season history.

On a positive note, I did get my usual soft serve ice cream in a souvenir helmet. I highly recommend.

The Chicago Cubs couldn’t hit a baseball to save their season, but the Chicago golf hits kept coming fast. Skokie Country Club is on the short list of best clubs in the city and it is well deserved. Similar to Beverly, the course was originally laid out by Tom Bendelow, before Donald Ross redesigned in in 1914. In 1922, Skokie Country Club hosted the US Open and in 2018 it hosted The RGV Tour.

 The par 3 9th hole at Skokie Country Club

The par 3 9th hole at Skokie Country Club

 The bunkering on the par 5 3rd is deliciously good.

The bunkering on the par 5 3rd is deliciously good.

 The 12th hole is one of the more difficult par 3’s at Skokie.

The 12th hole is one of the more difficult par 3’s at Skokie.

After a morning round at Skokie, it was time to head on out to the lesser known Canal Shores. Canal shores is a short course that offers a full 18 holes winding through the neighborhoods of Evanston, IL. I met up with local golf stud, Brad Repplinger, and we decided to play a one club match. The idea is pretty simple, you get one club and that is all you can use for your round.

The match is going along pretty well and I am delivering a solid beating on Brad. While I was working on some high kicks, we had a couple of neighborhood kids approach us. They were fans of the RGV Tour and had pinpointed our location from Instagram stories... They wanted to be a part of the tour. “Well saddle on up partners and join this golf party!” I kept the match going with Brad and we implemented a skins game to pump up the action for our new tour players, Thomas and Tejas. Like a natural born hustler, Tejas birdied the very first hole to take a skin. What a legend.

Afterwards, we gave the kids a ride home in the RGV and they signed the guest book. Thomas would proceed to write one of my favorite entries. “Thanks so much for letting us join up and see Patrick kick Brad’s ass.”

One of Chicago’s oldest golf organizations is Ravisloe Country Club. The course’s history begins in 1901 and is actually a founding member club of the USGA. The course is public now, which means it was an easy course to add to the agenda. Plenty of Donald Ross goodies to be found here.

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A man by the name of Jerry Rich invented a technology that combines a number of different finance programs into one convenient piece of software. He made a bunch of money selling this software to financial institutions and today, this technology is used by stock exchanges around the world.

Great, so what does this have to do with golf? Well, Jerry decided to take some of that money he made in finance and build a golf course with it. At first it was 3 holes, then 6, and today it is 18 golf holes of top 100 golf. The course is home to the Northern Illinois University golf teams and most recently hosted the NCAA Men’s Golf Championship in 2017.

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Our group was the only one on the course that entire day. We did see Jerry playing as a single as we made our way around the back nine. He lives on the property and was just out for a stroll in his backyard.

When I was a kid, I made up a golf course in my back yard. The first hole was a par 3 that involved a shot over the roof or a hard slice around the house. The shot over the house shot was a real risk reward option because there was a chance that the plastic ball would get stuck in the gutter. That was a one stroke penalty, plus you had to climb up on the roof and get the ball.

While the golf holes are much more grown up at Rich Harvest Farms, It is this same sort of golf spirit that exists at Rich Harvest Farms.

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Rain had threatened to derail some of the Chicago rounds but it would never succeed. The only thing that the rain usually does is scare off a majority of the golfers. I would play golf in just about any weather and a little drizzle certainly didn’t stop me from having the course to myself at the Merit Club.

 I get so excited when climbing hills like this. Ooohhweee! what is going to be at the top!?

I get so excited when climbing hills like this. Ooohhweee! what is going to be at the top!?

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After battling some Chicago traffic, I met up with Brad again... the Brad from the ass beating at Canal Shores. This time we were looking to watch the Chicago Blackhawks beat some ass against the Maple Leafs. It was the home opener for the Blackhawks and it turned out to be one of the best hockey games that I have ever witnessed.

The action got intense when Kane evened the score at 5-5 with less than 2 minutes left in the 3rd period, 22 seconds later, the Maple Leafs went ahead 6-5. 33 seconds after that, Kane scored again to send the game to overtime at 6-6. 19 seconds into overtime, Toronto would score would win it. Sports are good in Chicago.

And just like that, my time in Chicago was almost over. I headed on over to Black Sheep for a send-off round. It is a little bit of a drive compared to some of the other courses in the area, but it is worth it.

 Strong Windows 95 vibes with this one.

Strong Windows 95 vibes with this one.

You have 27 holes of golf at Black Sheep and If it’s possible, I would say that the course is even better than it’s logo. That logo is so good that I even bought a tee shirt.

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So where does Chicago rank in term’s of America’s greatest golfing cities? I would say that it is very similar to Philadelphia and may even surpass it in terms of it’s public options. Chicago golfers are wildly passionate about their sport as well. Since I have Philly at #2 and there is very little science involved in this, Chicago get’s my #3 spot. That bronze medal will have to keep Cubs fans happy in October.

BONUS STATE: IOWA

If you are a golfer living in Chicago and haven’t made it out to Davenport Country Club in Iowa, you are committing a crime. Davenport CC gets a nod from me on one of my biggest surprises on the entire tour. Just go see it.

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Sweet Home Indiana

Fort Wayne, Indiana is were the journey of The RGV Tour actually began 27 years ago. As a youngster, I learned to play the game at a little place called Arlington Park Golf Course. Fortunately for me, that course is still open and the head pro, Gary, is still around. The course has had zero renovations and the pro shop still smells the exact same. I wasn’t going to miss this opportunity to stroll down the fairways of memory lane.

That little green circle to the far right is where I made my first birdie 2 on a par 3 of about 135 yards. I remember it clearly. When I pass from this earth, I would like a bench with my name on it right there. “Golf Hobo Koenig made his first birdie on this very spot in 1990. He never forgot his first time.” Or something like that.

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Arlington Park Golf Course is home to one of my favorite Golf Professionals, Gary Johnson. Gary has ran the show at Arlington Park since… well, since the beginning of time probably. Gary brings life to this little par 3 course and was a big part of my beginning stages in the game. To this day, I still use the chipping technique he showed me as a little kid.

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Next up was a course that I had only got the chance to play once as a junior golfer. Back then, Sycamore Hills was a far off magical land that only millionaires could play. However, the owner of my father’s company had heard of my passion for the game and decided to bring me out for a round when I was 13. The only thing I remember from that round was being amazed at how great golf courses could be.

I was more than thrilled to see this place again with my 38 year old eyes. Eyes that had seen places like Cypress Point and Augusta National since then. I was not let down, although, the experience as a junior golfer was much more powerful.

One thing that The RGV Tour has not had up until this point in time was royalty. That’s right, no Kings or Queens have joined the tour. However, the tour was in for a treat at Sycamore Hills. About halfway through the round, I learned that a member of our group comes from a royal Swedish bloodline and was a verifiable Princess. Not only is Anna Appert Lund the very first RGV Tour Princess, she is also one heck of a golfer.

 Princess in the middle.

Princess in the middle.

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I also had time to take in another local favorite, Cherry Hill Golf Course. The course is well known for it’s island green 6th hole.

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It was a treat to show the neighborhood kids the RGV and fly the drone over the old neighborhood. The shot below is an aerial view of the original stomping grounds. You can see the basketball court where I used to ball hard and where I lost my first tooth. On the top right is where my sister sat on a huge ant hill as a kid and got a serious case of ants in the pants. The bottom left is the site of one of the very best ‘bush forts’ the world has ever seen. You can even see the old bus stop where we would board the bus to school.

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After a rousing good time in The Fort, Indianapolis and a visit to Sagamore Country Club was up next. Ryan Huffman was a fantastic host and afterwards we traded some stories in the clubhouse. Unfortunately, I did not have much time in the city and had to hustle on out to French Lick.

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There are 2 golf courses at the French Lick Resort, the Donald Ross course and the Pete Dye course. Both are excellent courses and you will want to make sure you plan time to see both of them. The Donald Ross course is a classic and underrated design that should receive just as much attention as Dye’s course. However, as the Dye course is the more scenic of the two, it get’s most of the love.

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The foggy morning on the Donald Ross course turned into a sunny day in an instant. We stepped right off of the 9th green and out of the fog. By the time we hit our tee shots on #10, it was sunny skies for days. After some lunch, it was time to head on over to The Pete Dye course which is just about 5 miles down the road.

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Pete Dye sketched the course routing on a napkin during the initial idea phase and in 2009, 8100 yards of golf was released. The course hosted the Senior PGA Championship in 2015 and has some of the most stunning views in Southern Indiana. You can listen to Pete talk about his creation here.

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Next up was a visit to the #1 course in the state, Victoria National. Recently, the course has been acquired by The Dormie Network and I was scheduled to do some photography of the course. I was looking forward to this one as Victoria National is a visual stunner.

With Victoria National joining The Dormie Network, the membership offering now includes 5 courses. Arbor Links, The Dormie Club, Briggs Ranch, and Ballyhack round out the course selection. You can read more about the deal in my post here and if you are interested in joining, just send me a message.

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Victoria National has something like 80 million gallons of water on the property and I heard a rumor that the record for most golf balls lost in a single round was 90. Think about that, with an average of 5 lost balls per hole, you are most likely making multiple trips to the golf shop to reload on Pinnacles. Fortunately, our group would keep the losses to single digits.

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It was on the 14th hole that I would hit what I am going to call the shot of the RGV Tour. While no words will do the shot justice, here is my version of the events that happened that afternoon.

After putting my drive through the fairway and into the brush, I was blocked out by a forest of trees and my only option was to punch back into the fairway. I spotted a slight gap in the trees high up and way to the right. I jokingly said to my playing partners. “Maybe I could just hit it over there through that hole.” I took a quick look at my lie and realized it wasn't too bad. “I bet I could get it up there if I hit a 6 iron... but could I carry it 185?” I decided to ponder the short further. “Well, it needs to take a serious left turn or it’s going a mile into the forest… but the ball is above my feet.” My decision was made. “Watch this one,” I announced to the group.

That is when it happened, that Callaway Chrome Soft left the face of my 6 iron in a hurry and headed right for the gap. Miraculously, it missed every branch. I was stunned. You could feel the quiet come over the group as they watched the golf shot unfold.

For the second act, it needed to hook real hard back to the hole and sure enough, this thing put on it’s blinker and curbed hard left. It was just as I had envisioned. It might actually make it back to the green! No way! Just look at it go. Oh my god, it’s happening.

As the ball bounced onto the green and cozied up to the hole, an eruption of screams came from our threesome. High fives happened and profanities carried over several fairways. Fortunately for us, the course was empty or we might have been asked to leave.

It is moments like this that define the game, the impossible achieved. For all of the bad shots in the game, it only takes one swing of the club to make your golf heart swoon. We all have that amazing shot that lives inside of us and when it comes out, it is one of the greatest feelings in the world. Just don’t ask me if I made that 10 footer for birdie.

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Later on, the Tour would return to Indiana for a Notre Dame football game. At this point, my parents had joined the golf party and were in on the action. The only real good excuse for not golfing is a Notre Dame game. My mom was actually relieved that I took a day off of golfing. She told me that I needed it. We agreed to disagree.

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By now, the fridge in the RGV has not been working for several months. It just so happened that I played golf with an engineer named Eric Bens that works for Dometic. Dometic is the company that makes my fridge. What a stroke of luck!

You know what happened next. We golfed hard and fixed the fridge. Cold Diet Cokes for everyone!

 Eric Bens is a hell of a golfer and a good guy to know when your fridge is on the fritz.

Eric Bens is a hell of a golfer and a good guy to know when your fridge is on the fritz.

Michigan, Finally!!

At the beginning of the RGV Tour, there were 3 states that I was most excited about. New York, Texas, and Michigan. Not necessarily because those are the best states, but because they had the most undiscovered territory with huge potential. States like Wisconsin and California are great golfing states but I have seen most of the golfing places already. Somehow Michigan had eluded my grasp. But no more! It was now in reach and the temperatures were dropping into the 70 degrees and sunny territory. It was just as I had planned and this was going to be good.

In technical terms, I decided to enter Michigan from the bottom right by the thumb, swoop into the top of the mitten and come out the bottom left palm. In total, the tour would visit 19 golf courses in Michigan and a visit to Ann Arbor and it’s Alister Mackenzie golf course was up first.

 They actually use the golf course as a parking lot during home football games to make room for the 107,601 fans.

They actually use the golf course as a parking lot during home football games to make room for the 107,601 fans.

 That little boomerang-ish green down there is a joy to putt on.

That little boomerang-ish green down there is a joy to putt on.

After a solid warmup, it was time to jump into the big guns with a round at Oakland Hills. You have 2 courses at Oakland Hills, the North Course and the South Course. I only had time for one round and I took on the storied South Course.

Designed by Donald Ross, the history at Oakland Hills’ South Course is as storied as any course in the nation. Since it’s opening in 1918, the course has hosted 15 major championships. Perhaps the most legendary of those was the 1951 US Open won by Ben Hogan. With only two rounds shot under par during the entire tournament, the course earned it’s nickname “The Monster.” After shooting a final round 67 to win the tournament, Ben Hogan is quoted as saying, "I am glad I brought this course, this monster, to its knees."

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On a perfect afternoon, I would whole heartedly attempt to shoot 67 and tame the monster as well. I started out as a single and then joined up with 3 other golfers on holes 4-9. Since my new friends were only doing 9 holes, I was solo again on hole #10. As I waited on a slow group in front of me, I joined up with another single by the name of Jay. It turns out that Jay is awesome and a long time member of the club. We traded stories and he shared tidbits and history from over a decade of membership. Sometimes that slow group in front of you is a blessing in disguise.

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Tom Doak has recently designed an unusual course out at Forest Dunes called The Loop and I was excited to visit. The unique part about The Loop is that it is reversible. The Black course is played clockwise one day, and The Red Course is played counterclockwise the next day, both on the same piece of land, with the same greens. Doak had mulled over the idea for decades and had finally gotten his chance to birth such a creation. I would get my chance to play the course as the summer was coming to a close.

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The challenge for Doak was to create an interesting course and not just something that was flat and boring. The key was the creation of interesting green complexes with compelling undulations.

The tee boxes are also angled so that you are not just coming in from 180 degrees in each direction depending on the day. A green you approached yesterday from the ‘front,’ you may now face from a 90 or 120 degree angle today.

The Loop is an interesting place and a course worth exploring.

The most popular option at Forest Dunes is Tom Weiskopf’s original and more traditional creation on the property, Forest Dunes Golf Club. As you may have guessed, the layout runs through the forest and the dunes. As usual, I preferred the dunes portion of the course.

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Playing as a single for the first 16 holes, the good action did not really start until I paired up with a 3some on the 17th hole. I decided to get my act together and go with an eagle, birdie finish. I usually end up impressing my playing partners with double bogies, so this was a real nice change of pace. Forest Dunes also has a short little 19th hole that almost everyone plays as you walk off of 18. I am not sure why more courses don’t do this.

 From left to right. 1 fairway, 8 green, 9 green, 18 green, 19 green, practice green, 10 tee, range.

From left to right. 1 fairway, 8 green, 9 green, 18 green, 19 green, practice green, 10 tee, range.

 Scene of the eagle on 17.

Scene of the eagle on 17.

Next up was a visit to Boyne Highlands for a day of 36 holes on The Heather and Arthur Hills Golf Courses. There are a lot of good options for public golf in Michigan and Boyne was near the top of the list. I found the Heather course to be enjoyable but the Arthur Hills course really held my attention as I golfed until the sun came down.

When I returned to the RGV in darkness, I noticed a large Kalamazoo Hornets head cover had been placed under my windshield wiper. I have no idea who placed it there. Perhaps it was a gift from an RGV Tour fan, perhaps it flew under there on it’s own. The world will never know.

 Block that cart path with a picket fence. Yeah!

Block that cart path with a picket fence. Yeah!

 Check the tweet below to see what it looks like 20 yards deep into these trees.

Check the tweet below to see what it looks like 20 yards deep into these trees.

 More grass mounding, please.

More grass mounding, please.

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 An eagle 3 was found here.

An eagle 3 was found here.

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A mandatory trait that one must have in order to survive on The RGV Tour is resourcefulness. Because the budget isn’t endless, I am always looking for ways to get around at reduced costs. It turns out that one of the best places to find some necessities is at country clubs. Compared to the RGV, the showers almost never run out of water, the electricity appears endless, and they have snacks sitting out almost everywhere.

As I normally do, I decided to walk the hilly course in order to burn off the 2,000 calories of banana bread that I consumed. While the banana bread at True North was absolutely delicious, it did not compare to the deliciousness of the golf course.

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Almost every day on The RGV Tour has been rewarding in some way or another, but there are certainly some days that stick out from the rest. I was about to have one of those days in Frankfort, MI. As you pull up to the clubhouse at Crystal Downs, you can’t help but notice the golf course on your right hand side. You get little glimpses of the front nine and your heart starts to beat faster. I eagerly parked the RGV and headed up to the clubhouse in search of my host Al.

Al and I had played years ago at Estancia in AZ and we had kept in touch. Good fortune would shine on the tour and he had a free day in September to play some golf. Al is one of those sneaky good players, heck, you might even be foolish enough to think that you could beat him. But after he calmly hits 14 greens in a row, you start to realize that you never had a chance.

As good as Al is at golf, Crystal Downs is even better. The firm and fast greens really bring out all of the original Mackenzie architecture. You have to think your way around the design and to hit quality golf shots. From the view on the 1st tee to the walk up the hill on 18, Crystal Downs should delight the golfer’s soul. If it doesn’t you are golfing wrong.

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The front nine is one of the best in the entire world and back nine only slightly drops off in excitement levels. Highlights include the tough 1st hole, the boomerang green 7th hole, the short par 4 17th, and every hole in between.

 The approach to #7

The approach to #7

 The view from behind 7 green

The view from behind 7 green

 The par 3 14th hole.

The par 3 14th hole.

 The 17th hole at Crystal Downs has been regarded as one of the world’s finest.

The 17th hole at Crystal Downs has been regarded as one of the world’s finest.

After an amazing tour of Crystal Downs, Al invited me to Art’s tavern in Glen Arbor. While this is not a food blog, the burgers here receive 9 out of 10 stars. As I finished up my mushroom and Swiss, I though to myself, the only way that this day could gets any better, is if we roast some marshmallows and eat s’mores down by the lake. You guessed it folks, that is exactly what happened.

A big thanks to Al and Kay for hosting The RGV Tour and delivering a top 10 tour stop.

The next morning, the tour rose bright and early to grab some breakfast and head out to another local gem, Lochenheath. This was my first experience with a Steve Smyers design and I enjoyed it very much.

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At this point, you are probably thinking, “Alright Koenig, let’s move on, how much Michigan do you need!?!” The answer is more Michigan. We are about half way through the state with a nice little surprise at the end. The next surprise would be these shots from Arcadia Bluffs. Arcadia has recently added a South Course to their portfolio but the original course remains one of the most scenic in the land. Situated on a bluff overlooking the shores of Lake Michigan, the course reminds me a lot of Whistling Straits in Wisconsin.

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 The fan favorite 11th hole.

The fan favorite 11th hole.

 These 2 shots are taken at almost the exact same spot. One is just a couple hundred feet in the air.

These 2 shots are taken at almost the exact same spot. One is just a couple hundred feet in the air.

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When you play golf every single day, some of the golf courses can tend to run together and it takes something special to really stand out. Architect Jim Engh creates golf courses that stand out and his creation at Tullymore does exactly that. With a wide variation of golf holes, the course keeps you interested and the unique bunkering style maximizes visual impact.

Some of Jim Engh’s other designs include The Club at Black Rock in Idaho, True North also in Michigan, and Hawktree Golf Club in North Dakota. As I type this, I am preparing to play Hawktree tomorrow and my excitement level is high.

 The 3rd hole.

The 3rd hole.

 Above the 3rd hole.

Above the 3rd hole.

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While I was golfing at Lost Dunes, Tiger Woods was busy winning The Tour Championship and capturing his 80th professional victory. Although I was missing history, I was not going to miss Lost Dunes on this Michigan trip. My buddy John was keeping me up to date on the Tiger scenario as it unfolded.

Lost Dunes is one of Tom Doak’s first designs and it is easy to see why Tom was hired for additional projects after this effort.

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The penultimate round in Michigan came at Harbor Shores. This Jack Nicklaus design has hosted and will host the Senior PGA Championship 7 times from 2012 - 2024. Harbor Shores is also a not for profit development. Any revenues above operating expenses are granted back to the community for job training and educational programs. Harbor Shores is also a proud partner of the Benton Harbor First Tee.

So yes, the course is a major venue and an inspiration to the community. But the real magic at Harbor Shores is where the course came from. Over 3 million square feet of dilapidated buildings were demolished and over 140,000 tons of waste material was removed from portions of the Paw Paw River and other areas on the property to make room for the golf course. Think about that for a second, the golf course was literally a run down waste dump.

It is hard to imagine what this place even looked like before Jack came to town. Unfortunately, I don’t have before and after pictures. You will just have to settle for the after shots.

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It can be argued that the final course in the state of Michigan is the best 9 hole course in the entire country. That certainly is my contention as I have yet to play one that comes close to it. The golf course that I am talking about is The Dunes Club.

For those that know the story of Bandon Dunes and the book “Dream Golf,” they will be familiar with The Dunes Club. This was the golf course that Mike Keiser built before he built Bandon Dunes. The dream of building golf courses like Pacific Dunes, Sand Valley, and Cabot Cliffs all began here.

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Here are some quick facts and observations on the 9 hole golfing wonderland.

  • The clubhouse is very modest and the pro shop is about the size of a walk in closet.

  • I was the only golfer on the golf course during my visit.

  • The Dunes Club evokes strong comparisons to America’s #1 course Pine Valley.

  • The cheeseburger the staff grilled up at the turn receives a 5 star burger award.

  • The parking lot won the “Tightest RGV Squeeze” award on tour.

  • The maintenance staff cuts different cups in the afternoon so that golfers playing 18 holes can change up the experience.

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 There is a good chance that your house is bigger than the club house at The Dunes Club

There is a good chance that your house is bigger than the club house at The Dunes Club

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As I made my way out of the bottom left palm of Michigan and one of my favorite states came to a close, I felt a slight bit of sadness. The anticipation of upcoming states is one of the best parts about the tour and I could no longer look forward to Michigan. However, I did manage to leave a couple of courses un-golfed and it’s never too early to anticipate a return trip.

It is freaking hot in West Virginia and Ohio

At this point, you think I would be getting used to sweating profusely every day. Unfortunately, I think it takes your body 3-5 years to acclimate to stifling daily heat and humidity. How that superintendent is wearing cargo pants in this heat, I will never understand. The good news is that I would have to be standing on the surface of the sun to actually stop golfing.

Up first in West Virgina it was Pete Dye Golf Club. What you don’t see in the pictures below is my sweaty smiling face as Pete Dye is starting to become one of my favorite architects. His body of work is vast, varied, and meaningful in the history of the game.

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After a rousing round at Pete Dye Golf Club, I headed on over to The Greenbrier. Every year, the course plays host to the Greenbrier Classic and it is one of the few classic courses that remain in the PGA Tour rotation. You have got all of Seth Raynor’s hits on this excellent template course. With good versions of the cape, redan, and short holes, the course is a lot of fun to play. I birdied the 1st hole and had my eyes on the course record. In the end, I only managed to break 80.

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 With options and angles a plenty, the 15th hole was my favorite.

With options and angles a plenty, the 15th hole was my favorite.

The Greenbrier also has a meadows course on the property that I took on in during a misty morning that turned into a hot and sunny afternoon.

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Just down the street from the Greenbrier is The Snead. Opening in 2004 and designed by Tom Fazio, the course is exclusive to the members of the Greenbrier Sporting Club. However, I did manage to find a tee time for a follow up round after the Greenbrier Courses.

A Virginia native, Sam Snead served as the head pro of the Greenbrier from 1946 to 1974 and is highly regarded around these parts. With restaurants like Sam Sneads’ and Slammin’ Sammmy’s in the area, you can feel the Snead vibes running deep. The Snead course also serves as an honor to The PGA Tour’s all time wins leader.

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 Snead Tee Markers!

Snead Tee Markers!

 Classic foggy feelings on a morning at The Snead.

Classic foggy feelings on a morning at The Snead.

While making a bee line for Ohio, I decided to take a quick peak into Kentucky, while it will not go down as one of my favorite golfing states, it deserved a quick peak. I decided to pay a visit to the new site of The Barbasol Championship, Champion Trace and Hurstbourne Country Club.

While Champion Trace met my expectations, Hurstbourne CC exceeded them. Originally designed by Chick Evans, the course has a classic feel to it. My personal highlight of the day was when I played through a group on the par 3 4th hole. I hit my approach to 3 feet and made the putt. They had no idea that I doubled the previous 2 holes and probably figured I was just another PGA Tour pro taking a week off or something.

 The 17th at Champion Trace is a great little par 4 with options for disaster and success.

The 17th at Champion Trace is a great little par 4 with options for disaster and success.

 The short par 5 10th hole at Hurstbourne CC.

The short par 5 10th hole at Hurstbourne CC.

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 The finishing hole at Hurstbourne CC is a par 3 that plays right into the clubhouse. I was a fan.

The finishing hole at Hurstbourne CC is a par 3 that plays right into the clubhouse. I was a fan.

“Welcome to Ohio.” That is what google maps said when I entered the state. It gives me a nice greeting whenever I cross a state boundary and I always like to pump my fist in accomplishment. But I would not settle for a fist pump in the rig. I wanted some birdie fist pumps and I was going to hunt them down right away. Little did I know that I would be doing eagle pumps later on that day.

I met up with a spirited RGV Tour player named Terry Pancost and he was a fantastic host at Persimmon Ridge. After a fun front nine, we arrived at the par 5 15th. A good drive had put me in position to reach the green in 2, however I bladed my 2 iron into the creek below. At least that is what I thought happened. It turns out the ball hit the rocks below and bounced back over the creek. Sensing a rare opportunity, I pitched my next shot in for eagle. Terry and I high fived each other at least five times and we wildly celebrated the glorious fortune.

 Scene of the crime. These rocks receive an honorary RGV Tour card for the eagle assist.

Scene of the crime. These rocks receive an honorary RGV Tour card for the eagle assist.

The good news for The RGV Tour is that I have family in the Columbus area and they were more than happy to provide me some home cooked meals and a place to park the RGV. Uncle Bill, Aunt Marilyn, and Cousin Dave really made Ohio feel like home for a couple of days.

After recharging the batteries and loading up on calories, I headed out for a round at Stonelick with Travis and Matt. These fellas kept things cool even though we were battling some serious summer heat.

Travis and Matt had not met each other before the round and we all became fast friends. One of my favorite aspects of the tour is bringing together like minded individuals for a spirited golf party. I often get direct messages from fellow RGV Tour players that meet up for a round after the tour has long passed through. Although it may be small, I am very proud of the RGV community.

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 Between the 1st and 10th holes at Stonelick you will find a buffalo pen. Do not approach them. Approach the green instead.

Between the 1st and 10th holes at Stonelick you will find a buffalo pen. Do not approach them. Approach the green instead.

At this point, the tour is really cooking. The days were long and 36 holes of golf was the norm. I packed in Kinsale with Greg and did Virtues on a solo mission. Then I met up with a great group of guys for Pinnacle and Wedgewood Country Clubs.

 Several homes line the fairways of Kinsale Country Club

Several homes line the fairways of Kinsale Country Club

 The finishing hole at one of Ohio’s best public options, Virtues Golf Club

The finishing hole at one of Ohio’s best public options, Virtues Golf Club

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 The gettable par 5 16th at Virtues

The gettable par 5 16th at Virtues

 The back nine is where the action is at Pinnacle Country Club.  Our group had two chip ins on this par 3.

The back nine is where the action is at Pinnacle Country Club. Our group had two chip ins on this par 3.

After finishing up on the 7th hole at Wedgewood Country Club, Ben Huenke was nowhere to be found. We didn’t worry about it too much as we made our way to the 8th tee box. That is were we found Ben. Ben had dug into his golf bag, pulled out a portable fishing rod, and was fishing for bass in the pond in front of the green. On his second cast, Ben reeled in the first RGV Tour bass like a true bass master.

I was obviously there with my camera to capture the magic. The par 3 in the background is good enough as it is, but the smile on Ben’s face sent him straight into the hall of legends.

Ben didn’t miss a beat, made a quick par, and we kept on the heels of the group in front of us.

 The tight and tough 10th at Wedgewood Country Club

The tight and tough 10th at Wedgewood Country Club

While I had already played a lot of the big names in Ohio like the Golf Club, Muirfield Village, and Scioto on previous trips, I opted to mix it up with some of the clubs not on the short list. These clubs turned out to be every bit as good as some of the more well known tracks. The golf scene in Ohio runs deep! The trio of Canterbury, Kirtland, and Inverness were on the schedule to cap off a jam packed state.

Sam Snead has been quoted as saying he’d “much rather face a rattlesnake than a downhill 2 footer at Canterbury.” Conditioning like this attracted major championships to Canterbury and they have come in droves over the past 80 years. Since 1932, the club has hosted 13 major championships and Canterbury is one of only two Clubs in history to have hosted all five of the men's Major Championships that rotate sites. (The US Open, PGA Championship, US Amateur, Sr. US Open and Sr. PGA Championship).

 The view from the clubhouse porch at Canterbury Country Club

The view from the clubhouse porch at Canterbury Country Club

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 Only the purest golf shots will find the green on Canterbury’s 15th hole.

Only the purest golf shots will find the green on Canterbury’s 15th hole.

Kirtland Country Club was up next and I had heard rumors about the back nine being one of the best in the entire state. After a satisfying front nine, I was ready to jump right in. They have a snack shack that overlooks the large photo below and we fueled up on peanut butter and Ritz crackers. After pumping our drives off of the cliff on #10, we went for a serious golf ride that doesn’t really ease up on world class quality until the 18th hole.

I can easily say the rumors did not disappoint and I would put the back nine up against any other Ohio 9. The only thing better that day was our host, AJ.

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Opening in 1903, Inverness Country Club has hosted 4 US Opens and 2 PGA Championships. The RGV Tour was looking to add to the list of “major” golf events in 2018. The course was designed by Donald Ross and the tour tackled it on a sunny summer afternoon. With plenty of tough golf holes in the mix, nothing outstanding was happening until I drove it in the green side bunker on #18.

As I blasted out of the sand to a back left pin I heard the words “We better get a high kick with that bunker shot,” coming from the clubhouse porch overlooking the green. It was Twitter friend Jeff Bajorek in the flesh! Jeff and The Outpost Club had hosted an event earlier and the crew was just sitting down to dinner.

After watching me 3 putt for bogey, they invited me to join the group for an evening of laughs, lies, and mostly true golf stories. It is moments like this that make me proud to be a part of the golfing community. Almost everyone I have met on this journey has been overly generous and eager to join in on the fun.

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 The view of 17 with the short 18th in the background.

The view of 17 with the short 18th in the background.

While the finish at Inverness would have been a fitting end to Ohio, I couldn’t leave without paying a quick visit to Firestone Country Club. Everyone had told me that it was going to be a “total rain out” day, but I was not going to listen to any of that nonsense. I strapped on my rain pants and headed out there. I was the only golfer on the course that final day in Ohio and I loved every bit of it.

After drying off, I headed out to another highly anticipated state, Michigan.

Return to New York and Pennsylvania

Two of the best golfing states in the country are New York and Pennsylvania. On the return trip across these beauties, I was hitting the western halves of these states. Some serious golf gems lied in wait for me. I barely made it back into the state of New York before I was greeted by one of my favorite faces on the tour. It’s Gretchen The Doggo. One of my other favorite faces belongs to Klea Armstrong of Saratoga who gladly allowed the RGV Tour to park in her driveway for a couple of days.

Klea took the tour on a world class roundabout of Saratoga Springs. From golfing, to fudge eating, to hard core karaoke. The tour stop in Saratoga was a serious golf party. The golf courses included Saratoga Lakes, Saratoga National, and Glens Falls Country Club.

Saratoga also turns into a serious party town during race season and the season was in full swing. Klea and I put some bets on the local horse races with our favorite horse being Plink Freud. As It turns out, Pink Floyd puns are not a key indicator in horse racing success.

 Klea hammered this drive. So hammered that she surprised herself.

Klea hammered this drive. So hammered that she surprised herself.

 This one nearly went in for the RGV Tour’s first ace.

This one nearly went in for the RGV Tour’s first ace.

 Saratoga National’s back 9.

Saratoga National’s back 9.

 These bunkers!

These bunkers!

 RGV Tour Awards ALERT: Shortest RGV shorts. It’s not even close.

RGV Tour Awards ALERT: Shortest RGV shorts. It’s not even close.

Glens Falls Country Club is an old Donald Ross design and as usual, the Ross man did not dissapoint. Klea however, did not drive the green on this par 4 and the group did voice our disappointment.

Joking aside, Klea and the fam were some of the most generous hosts that the tour has encountered to date. The hospitality was out of this world and the driveway was one of the finest driveways the RGV has parked in. Follow Klea on Instagram here.

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After a stop in Saratoga that seriously felt like a break from the rigors of the road, it was time to march on and golf hard. That golfing started again at Binghamton Country Club. Binghamton is an under the radar Tillinghast track that was a bunch of fun to play. We also had a revisit from an old RGV Tour friend from Florida, Grant Gulick. I love it when we get people jumping back on the tour for more action. Grant is also one of the best golfers we have had out on tour, so it was nice to receive a friendly a$$ whipping.

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Next on the agenda was a visit to Turning Stone Resort and Casino. Turning Stone has 5 golf courses available for public play and I took on 3 of them in one day. Atunyote, Kaluhyat, and Shenendoah were a bunch of fun to play. The resort is easily one of the best options for public golf in the state of New York.

 The 11th hole on Fazio’s Atunyote course

The 11th hole on Fazio’s Atunyote course

 The 2nd hole on Kaluhyat

The 2nd hole on Kaluhyat

 The opening hole on Shenandoah

The opening hole on Shenandoah

A day of 36 at Oak Hill was what the RGV Tour had on the calendar next. After coordinating with Dan for several months, I was just as excited to meet the man behind the email as I was to see Oak Hill. Neither the course nor Dan would let me down. Joining in on the action was Olympic Hockey Goaltender, David Leggio.

We warmed up on the West course, but at Oak Hill, it’s the East course that really gets your golf juices flowing. The round started off with a couple of double bogies to really loosen up the vibe. Our group would eventually calm down and find the birdies. Afterwards, we devoured pizza after a great walk of 36.

 I pounded my drive into the woods and ended up with one of my favorite shots from New York state.

I pounded my drive into the woods and ended up with one of my favorite shots from New York state.

 The opening 2 holes at Oak Hill.

The opening 2 holes at Oak Hill.

 Although it makes for an interesting picture, this pond on 15 doesn’t really fit the vibe and is slated for removal.

Although it makes for an interesting picture, this pond on 15 doesn’t really fit the vibe and is slated for removal.

Next up… Niagara freaking falls. I took a morning off of golf to visit the iconic waterfall. However, I did not attempt to drive a golf ball from the US to Canada like John Daly did back in 2005. It’s a 342 yard carry from the US to Canada and my tee ball only goes 330 on the fly.

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Not every round of golf on The RGV Tour needs to take place on a Top 100 course. Some of the best rounds that I have played have been on unique and fun courses. This was the case for my afternoon in Buffalo. I met up with Patrick Eustace and we took on Bob O Links in the rain, the sun, the rain, and then the sun again. It must have rained off and on 12 times as we played the little par 3 course and had ourselves a golf riot!

 The RGV sits majestically atop the 9th hole at Bob O Links par 3 course.

The RGV sits majestically atop the 9th hole at Bob O Links par 3 course.

As you can imagine, the buffalo wing debate in buffalo is serious business. The original spot is at The Anchor Bar, but Patrick insisted that Mammoser’s was the place to go. So we headed to Mammoser’s and ordered up a feast. They had some special going on and I must have eaten 45 buffalo wings. I won’t be able to tell you what the best buffalo wings in Buffalo are, but at Mammoser’s you will leave satisfied. I wiped my face and just like that the state of New York was in the history books.

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Nothing says welcome to Pennsylvania quite like Fox Chapel Golf Club. But before I could even make it into the pro shop I ran into an old friend in the parking lot. It was John from the Golf Club and he was teeing off just in front of me. Naturally, we merged the tee times to create a power foursome! We golfed until the sunset and then told some lies in the cluhouse.

Fox Chapel is one of Seth Raynor’s best and I was immediately in golf heaven.

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 Posing with divots never gets old.

Posing with divots never gets old.

 The tough 11th at Fox Chapel

The tough 11th at Fox Chapel

Just to the east of Pittsburgh you have another legendary walk at Laurel Valley Golf Club. Laurel Valley was a favorite of Arnold Palmer and I am always keen to follow The King. I ran into a caddy named Slim and I think we told more jokes and stories than I hit golf shots (I didn’t break 80.)

After an early morning tee time at Laurel Valley, I had an afternoon to burn, so I pulled up Google maps to see what was nearby. “Hmmm Sunnehanna, a lot of players have mentioned that, let’s do it.”

This is easily one of my favorite things to do on tour. I doubt I would have ever booked a trip just to play Sunnehanna but out on the road, this TIllinghast gem was a mandatory impromptu stop that afternoon.

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At the beginning of the tour, I had my eye on Oakmont as one of the most anticipated rounds of the year. Unfortunately, I had failed to land any real solid leads on securing a tee time. As lead after lead fell through it looked like I would be leaving Pennsylvania Oakmont-less.

However, I am not one to grumble about such things and I had time for one last stop at the Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. The resort is named after Chief Nemacolin, which by all accounts has the world’s best glutes. I joined up with my man Slope for a day of 36 on the Mystic Rock and Shepherds Rock courses. It turns out Slope is a caddy at Oakmont.

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As I quietly held out hope for Oakmont, I managed to get in a round at nearby Totteridge. It’s a public venue and a mighty fine one at that. Not only are these grass bunkers fun to look at, they are easy to play from, and less expensive to maintain!!

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The picture below should tell you what happened next. Slope and I found our way out onto Oakmont. That smile is as good as it gets on the 18th tee. The course is every bit as good as you may have heard. It’s firm, fast, real tough, and real beautiful. Even with the expectations set on ridiculous, I was not let down one bit.

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 Slope makes a run at the hawk. Hawk does not care.

Slope makes a run at the hawk. Hawk does not care.

 The furrowed bunker at Oakmont will ensure that you make double. There is only one on the course and it’s green side on 14.

The furrowed bunker at Oakmont will ensure that you make double. There is only one on the course and it’s green side on 14.

 These trenches at Oakmont are to be avoided at all costs.

These trenches at Oakmont are to be avoided at all costs.

 I made birdie on 15 and it felt like an eagle.

I made birdie on 15 and it felt like an eagle.

 As far as #18 tee boxes go, I can’t think of a better one.

As far as #18 tee boxes go, I can’t think of a better one.

As I calmly ran in my par putt on 18, I left Pennsylvania with a big smile on my face. As we all know, there are 2 types of golfers in this world… those who have made par on 18 at Oakmont and those who have not. P.S. I have no idea how DJ made birdie to shoot -4 and win the 2016 US Open, no freaking idea.

Sand Valley

in 2017, I made my first visit to Sand Valley Resort Golf Resort. In the fall of 2018, The RGV Tour was coming in hot on a return visit. I was very much looking forward to this leg of the trip as all 3 courses would be open for play.

Coore and Crenshaw have designed 2 of the courses at Sand Valley, the original Sand Valley course and the par 3, Sandbox course. In 2018, David McLay Kidd added Mammoth Dunes to the Sand Valley roster. All 3 are highly regarded in the golf world and I was looking to confirm the previous reports.

The tour started out where most trips to Sand Valley begin, at Craig’s porch. Named after the original land owner, the view from the property’s high point immediately sets the stage for your time at Sand Valley.

 Probably the most popular picture from Sand Valley, this shot is hard not to take.

Probably the most popular picture from Sand Valley, this shot is hard not to take.

Joining the golf party at Sand Valley was the Program Director at The First Tee of Greater Seattle, Evan Johnsen, and Paul Quella, a spirited RGV Tour golfer. Paul would calmly birdie the first hole and we were on our way hunting for more birdies. We would find them in handfuls and there was a 69 watch on the board for a hot second. However, the putters would cool and we would settle for a glorious walk on a crisp fall day.

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Sand Valley is carved through the sand of an old glacial lakebed and the course plays fast and firm. With this terrain, drainage is never an issue and the course has a very natural feel to it. Make sure that your 60 yard bunker shot is dialed in because at Sand Valley you will find plenty of them.

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After our round on the Sand Valley course, Paul had a special treat for the Tour Commissioner… an RGV Tour care package. It is labeled to open only in case of a golf emergency or hardship. Since there has been no golf emergencies since I left Sand Valley, I have no idea what is actually in the box.

It is just sitting here in the RGV as I type this. Is it a boxful of Snickers Bars? Is it a secret tracking mechanism? Is it filled with bees!?! Let’s just hope it isn’t a Smirnoff Ice.

Next up on the Sand Valley agenda was the Sand Box. But before we took to the course, we decided to kick things off with some rooftop range shenanigans. Naturally, I shanked one way right that barely missed the resort lodges.

We had 7 of us up there really grooving our swings and honing our rooftop shots. Fun is a premium on The RGV Tour and at Sand Valley.

With yardages ranging from 50 to 130, the course only requires a few clubs and still manages to be the most fun place on the entire property. Each green has plenty of interesting features that make playing the course multiple times fresh and enjoyable. For the golf architecture nerds, you have a biarritz green, a road hole, and a double plateau green.

Sand Valley also gives you the option to rent some hickory clubs to really enhance the experience. It is as beautiful as it is fun and I will just let the pictures do the rest of the explaining.

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With one final course to explore, we headed out to Mammoth Dunes. Named after the size and scale of the property, the course is a ton of fun to play. The massive dunes are matched by the course’s expansive fairways which allows the golfer to get into good position off of the tee more often than not. The course may look difficult, but most of the fairways and green sites provide options for fortunate bounces and there are plenty of spots to use the terrain to your advantage. For those that have played Gamble Sands, I found it to be similar, but the scale is larger and more challenging in comparison.

As Evan and I walked down the first fairway on Mammoth Dunes, a shadowy figure hustled to join up with us. It was Matt from Chicago! He had made the 2+ hour drive to join The RGV Tour. He was an instant legend in my book. This twosome had turned into a full out golf party!

 The par 5 7th at Mammoth Dunes

The par 5 7th at Mammoth Dunes

 The boomerang 6th green at Mammoth Dunes.

The boomerang 6th green at Mammoth Dunes.

 Long shadows and pure greens.

Long shadows and pure greens.

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While building Mammoth Dunes, the crew would uncover a foundation from an old building and turn it into a bunker. Like a true golf idiot, I threw one in there and tried to shank it off the stone for some sort of trick shot entertainment scenario.

It also must be noted that the food at Sand Valley is very good. Since Sand Valley is in a remote location, most of the ingredients are locally sourced. I only have one recommendation…. cheese curds.

As far as accommodations go, the resort is growing fast and all of the cottages are top notch. We stayed in the Wisconsin Suite and felt like kings. We even got a chance to record episode 26 of the RGV Tour podcast in the Mammoth Suite and it was unreal.

The 2 images below are particularly interesting as they were taken 14 months apart from my visit in 2017 and 2018. I like the one with grass better. You can really see how those trees have grown!

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 My favorite hole on the property was the 10th hole. Options abound!!

My favorite hole on the property was the 10th hole. Options abound!!

 Even when you both miss the green, you still high five at Mammoth Dunes.

Even when you both miss the green, you still high five at Mammoth Dunes.

In one of my favorite moments on tour, I managed to make an eagle 2 on the deliciously good 6th hole. In an ode to Mackenzie’s 7th hole at Crystal Downs, this short par 4 features a boomerang green. At just over 300 yards, It is a drivable par 4 and I took full advantage.

Is the celebration excessive? Yes. Was it necessary? Yes. Should you visit Sand Valley and create your own memories? Yes.

New England

Just like the Bears beat the New England Patriots in the 1985 season’s Super Bowl, I would look to tackle New England with similar force. This was one of the areas of the country that I was looking forward to most at the beginning of the trip. There are not a lot of obvious golf destinations and I think that is what intrigued me most. Coming from Seattle, the area is not easy to visit and The RGV Tour provided me the ideal opportunity to explore without limitations.

Playing courses that are out of the way and not commonly mentioned is wildly fun. For me, each golf hole is a little magical journey. Who knows what you will find on the next tee box. It might be a black bear, or it might be the best little par 4 that you have never heard of. This spirit of exploration was alive and well in New England.

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Portsmouth Country Club was first up in the state of New Hampshire. As you can imagine, the course really picks up some steam on the waterfront holes. I would finish up moments before a pretty good thunderstorm drenched the course.

Next up was a visit to Bunker Hill.  It was an early morning tee time on the course that is regarded as one of the best. A solid start to the state of New Hampshire was under way.

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When I think Lake WInnipasaukee, I think Dr. Leo Marvin. That’s right, I am talking about the fantastic Bill Murray film, What About Bob. Because Bill Murray was not in town to join the tour, I set out on a solo journey at Lake Winnepasukee Golf Club. In one of the hottest days on the entire tour, I decided to walk the hilly course. After just 2 holes, I was completely soaked with sweat. On about the 8th hole, I passed the world record for most sweat ever sweated on a golf course. I drank 15 bottles of water and probably should have drank 15 more.

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After a soaked and satisfying round of golf at Lake Winnipasaukee, I wrang out my golf shirt and headed to Vermont. First up was the Quechee Club. They have 36 holes of golf at Quechee Club, the Lakeland and the Highland course.

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Several years ago, I wrote a blog post for an aspiring young golf rapper and golfer named Matty Duplessis.  The good news is that Matty has decided to retire from the rap game and focus on golf.  Having followed Matty on social media for years, it was a pleasure to finally meet the young man behind the computer and play some golf.

After a solid morning with Matty D, it was time to move on out to The Country Club of Vermont.  What you won't find on the Country Club of Vermont's website is the fact that they are located directly across the street from Ben & Jerry's Headquarters.  You will just have to imagine how hard I slammed on the break and turned the RGV around. I estimate the U turn speed was 35 miles per hour.

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The best part about the journey through Vermont was the fact that The RGV Tour has reached it’s goal of raising $10k for the First Tee of Greater Seattle. Check out the video below to listen in on the official speech from Vermont. If you are interested in joining the cause and being a part of the journey you can donate here.

After re-calibrating the RGV Tour goal to raising $20k for The First Tee, it was time to reach another cornerstone of the journey… the corner of the country and the state of Maine. We had 3 gems in Maine, Belgrade Lakes, Sugarloaf Golf Club, and Sunday River Golf Club. All of these courses are public and receive a high level of recommendation from the RGV Tour.

First up was Belgrade Lakes. Not only is the course excellent but the staff exudes an unusual high level of pleasantness. These guys do it right. Pay them a visit and find out for yourself.

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The 2nd course featured in the state of Maine is Sugarloaf Golf Club. Unfortunately, Sugarloaf is best known as a ski resort with a golf course. It is not known as a golf course with a ski resort. However, based on the quality of the golf course, I can safely recommend the ski resort without ever skiing it. That means its good.

When the course opened, it was rated as one of the country’s toughest tests of golf. Miss the fairway and you were dropping your next shot. Over the years, it has been softened to increase enjoyment and playability. I only managed to lose a handful of golf balls.

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The final round in Maine was Sunday River Golf Club. Fittingly, the round occurred on a Sunday afternoon. Unfortunately, that Sunday Tiger Woods was in contention at The PGA Championship. We teed off at about the same time and I hustled my hardest to get back into the clubhouse to watch the finish.

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I would get back into the clubhouse just as Tiger birdied 15, he was gonna do it. Unfortunately, the Brooks Koepka buzz saw would cut Tiger’s comeback off at the knees and he would settle for 2nd place. As I pulled out of Maine, I knew Tiger’s time for win #80 would be just around the corner.

With only a couple of courses left in New England, I ran into one of the biggest surprises on the RGV tour. It was Dorset Field Club. Before entering Vermont, I had not heard much about the course but it had been recommended to me by several locals. I was more than pleasantly surprised. The course has a classic feel to it and still remains challenging.

Dorset Field club is also the oldest continuously operating golf club in The United States. Since 1886, golfers have been golfing their balls on this grass. There is something about walking in these historic venues that makes your round of golf feel slightly different, slightly special. I can’t quite put my finger on the feeling, but I am sure the ardent golfer knows exactly what I am talking about. Dorset Field Club has this feeling and it was an honor to visit.

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Massachusetts

The state of Massachusetts is not physically big, but it packs a serious punch when it comes to it's golf.  The RGV Tour visited 9 golf courses in the state and there is not a single slouch in the group.  Brace yourself, these courses are coming at you hard.  We started off with a day of 36 at Essex County Club and a round at Kittanset Club.  Both of these clubs would normaly make your week and I was lucky enough to double down in one day. 

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Just look at it... sitting there... in a total state of harmony as it presides over it's natural element, the golf course.  This is where the Recreational Golf Vehicle was meant to be and where it performs the best.  Just about every golf thing you can imagine is packed into that thing, including a full lineup of manual score counters and a host of unnecessary training aids.  In the back you can see the 11th green at Essex Country Club, but let's be honest, you didn't notice that at all, the stars and stripes sucked you right in.  

Once you make your way away from the RGV and head out onto Essex County Club, you will find it to be one of the best.  It is a Donald Ross design and definitely some of his finest work in the beginning portion of his career. The routing around a particularly cool rock out cropping is very well done and leads to a great finishing tee shot on 18.

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 Early contender for strongest RGV Tour caddie

Early contender for strongest RGV Tour caddie

After rocking around Essex, it was time to make the hour or so drive down to Kittanset.  The course is a William Flynn design and one of his best.  It starts out with some pretty strong links vibes, works it's way into the woods, and finishes back up by the sea.  The 3rd hole get's all of the attention but the entire course is fun to play and very interesting architectually.

 The 3rd hole at Kittansett is right on the beach!

The 3rd hole at Kittansett is right on the beach!

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When I first heard about Boston Golf Club, it was described to me as a mini Pine Valley.  At the time, that sounded good, but I had never seen Pine Valley and wasn't able to come to grips with the comparison.  After visiting Boston Golf Club, I want to play Pine Valley even more and I want to play Boston Golf Club again.

When finishing at some courses, you walk off the 18th green and say, "Man, that was fun."  On other courses, you walk off the 18th green and say, "Man, let's play that again!"  Boston Golf Club falls into the latter category.  Fortune would be on our side and we would actually go for an emergency 9 and end up with a day of 27 holes at Boston Golf Club.  What a treat!

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At this point, a brief hiatus back to Connecticut resulted in the unfortunate loss of The RGV Tour Guest Book.  The details of the incident are hazy and a criminal investigation has been launched.  We do know that the book was last seen at Wethersfield Country Club in the restaurant.  The initial reward was set at $100 and after several days it was increased to $200.  With no leads in weeks, the reward money has now been raised to $1 Million.  Actual reward payouts are subject to change.

One of my few regrets on the RGV Tour was that I did not make a PB&J sandwich at the beginning of the tour, store it for 6 months, and then eat that old sandwich when visiting Old Sandwich Golf Club.

It's not a huge deal because golfing Old Sandwich is far better than eating some old stale PB&J.  It was a another top notch tour visit.

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 Old Sandwich in it's entirety.

Old Sandwich in it's entirety.

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At this point I headed on over to Cape Cod and another highly anticipated round of golf at Eastward Ho!  It's the only golf course with an exclamation point in it's name and the Ho deserves it so.  We had a rowdy good group of guys for our round and we started it off with some New England clam chowder in the bar before heading out to the course.  The bar is a great hang spot and it leads right out onto a view of the 18th green.

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    It was another day of close calls on the ace hunt as I had two shots within a foot on #3 and #7.  Another buzzed the cup on #10 and our entire group was a little surprised that I only found the middle of the green on #15.

    When I got serious about trying to make a hole in one, I approached every par 3 like this is going to the one.  I envision the ball bouncing and rolling into the hole on every single shot.  I could care less about making a 3 on any of these holes, I am just trying to make it.  The shots at the middle of the green are unacceptable and immediately dismissed as failures.

    As a result, my concentration and focus on the par 3's has been much better and balls have been taking off right at the pin.  I have had more than my fair share of close calls and at least a dozen or so shots could have found the hole.

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    Things I noticed about Cape Cod.

    • Khaki vibes are real strong on the cape
    • People say "on cape" or "off cape" in regards to their location
    • It feels like vacation everywhere
    • There are 27 public golf courses and 15 private.  I only played 4.

    Next on the calendar was a visit to TGC Sacconnessett with Phil Dinah or "Phil the Thrill" as he is known in certain circles.  Phil started the 'thrill show' off slow but really managed to bring some heat down the stretch.  The highlight of his performance was when he recommended the chicken salad at the turn.  I know what you are thinking... "Come on, the chicken salad recommendation was the highlight?"  I can almost hear the eyes roll as I type this.  But that's only because you haven't tried this chicken salad.  

     The 16th hole was also a highlight at TGC Sacconnessett.

    The 16th hole was also a highlight at TGC Sacconnessett.

    We finished up as the sun set and I plugged the RGV into the electric car charging port and spent the night in the parking lot.  As for as places to park go, this was a real primo spot.  The following day, I woke up early and scooted on over to Cape Cod National.

     

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    Cape Cod National is easily one of the top courses "on cape" and I was lucky enough to tee it up with The Director of Golf, Mike Walker. The course is meticulously maintained and a lot of fun to play.  While having lunch with Mike after the round, he made an all world recommendation.  "You know where you should play?  Highland Links!"  He told me a bit about it and I was immediately sold.  Mike even offered to join me and drive on out to North Truro on the tip of Cape Cod.

    Highland Links is one of the few true links courses that exist in America.  With sandy soil and sea views on the majority of holes, the course has a simple feeling and it is one of the best 9 hole walks on the east coast.  Plus, I will golf any course with a lighthouse.  The best part about the course is that it is open to the public and only costs $35.

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    Just like that, only one round remained in Massachusetts.  The good news is that it was at The Country Club.  Not just any country club but The Country Club.  In my travels, I have now found The Golf Club and The Country Club.  I feel like this is a big deal and I am pretty proud of it.  

    The Country Club has more golf history than you can handle.  

    • The Country Club is the oldest country club in The US.
    • The clubhouse is old and awesome.
    • The club is one of 5 charter clubs that founded the USGA
    • I thought Tom Brady's house was gonna be bigger.
    • Gisele was not at the pool.
    • The Country Club Hosted the 1913 US Open won by amateur and caddie, Francis Ouimet.  Ouimet's unlikely victory was made into a Hollywood movie, The Greatest Game Ever Played.
    • Justin Leonard's putt in the 1999 Ryder Cup happened on the 17th hole.  Watch it.
    • I trickled in a tester on 18 to close out our Ryder Cup match.
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    Even though I only took in 9 golf courses, it is clear that Massachusetts is a serious contender for best golf state.  It was a pleasure to golf it and a shame to see it go.

    New York!!!

    Is New York the greatest golfing state in The United States of America?  According to the various lists, it has about 12 of the top 100 courses in the country.  The only other state that gives it a serious run is California.  When the dust finally settles on the RGV Tour, I will look forward to giving my take on each state and it's level of golf excellence.  But you can look forward to seeing New York right near the top.

    With great golf comes great golfers and I was fired up to meet the people and the places that make up one of America's greatest golfing communities.  Let's jump right into the golf action.

    The party got started just outside of Manhattan on The Links at Ferry Point.  Falling right into the RGV Tour groove were newlyweds Ashley Mayo and "Mr Mayo," Jeff Blind.  Rounding out the foursome was one liner specialist Mr Tom Murray.  If I only had one round of golf left on the planet, this team would round out my foursome.  It has been confirmed that at least Mr Mayo feels the same way.

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    After tearing up the links and replacing all of our divots, we headed back to Manhattan for some pizza and hijinks.  By hijinks, I mean hanging out and talking quietly.  I ended up spending the night in the Ferry Links parking lot and just taking an Uber in and out of the city.  A big thanks to Colin and the staff who do an excellent job and were very welcoming to The RGV Tour.

     Ashley Mayo sticks one in tight on 17.

    Ashley Mayo sticks one in tight on 17.

    Ashley and Jeff often head out to Ferry Point for a twilight nine and it is easy to see why.  The course is fun to play and when that golden sun licks the tips of the fescue, it is hard not to squeal with golf joy.

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    I can't say enough good things about this group of people.  The only better way to start off a state would be if the Governor met you at the state line and handed you a bag of cash.  However, I already feel like I won the lottery with friends like these.

    Long Island is home to some of the most outstanding courses in the world and they all are in relatively close proximity to one another.  I only had time to fit in a couple of lesser known gems out on Long Island.  My invite to Shinnecock and Sebonack got lost in the mail.

    We started off Long Island with a visit to Hampton Hills and a round with the enthusiastic Tracy Mehlman.  When you take a break from focusing on playing the very best courses and start focusing on playing with the very best people, the game can be even more rewarding.  That theory was proven true with Tracy at Hampton Hills.

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    One of the most unique course histories on Long Island belongs to The Bridge Golf Club.  Back in the 60's and 70's the Bridgehampton racing circuit was in full force on the land that the golf course currently occupies.  The Bridge does a great job at preserving this history and a lot of the remnants from the race track are still in place today.  Guard rails adorn the fescue, abandoned tires can be found in the rough, and you enter the property right under the original Chevron Gasonlines race track overhang.

    The clubhouse is like a museum with golf art adorning the hallways and open spaces.  The Bridge even has a speedway simulator in the basement for the race track speed junkies.  Oh yeah, the golf course is also excellent.

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     The opening tee shot at The Bridge

    The opening tee shot at The Bridge

    Next up on the agenda was one of the few options for public golf in the New York area, Pound Ridge Golf Club.  I met up with a couple of ambitious RGV Tour Players named Albert Ortiz and Jonathon Lockhart.  Amidst the serious heat, we pounded plenty of drives and had a serious good time.  Jonathon even brought the tour some fresh mutz from Hoboken.  Mutz is what they call mozzarella cheese in Hoboken and it is seriously delicious.  I had to eat it fast as the RGV refrigerator is currently on the fritz, which wasn't a problem.

     The 15th green at Pound Ridge offers an opportunity for the rare bank it off the rock birdie.  

    The 15th green at Pound Ridge offers an opportunity for the rare bank it off the rock birdie.  

    When the RGV Tour was conceptualized, certain courses were on the must play list.  Sleepy Hollow was one of those golf courses and it did not disappoint.  

    My golf buddy, Ben Garrett, had joined the tour at this point and we were giggling like a couple of school kids as we pulled up to the old clubhouse.  We found our host for the day and he promptly advised us that we might be facing a bit of a delay.  "We are going to be playing behind Bill Clinton."  Damnit!  This RGV Tour can't catch a freaking break.

    As the former President walked up to the tee box, a small group of caddies, members, and guests had formed awaiting his arrival.  He shook our hands like only an experienced President can and made his way down to the tee box.  

    Joining Bill was author, James Patterson.  If you google "How many books has James Patterson written," the answer is "At least 50."  It turns out the real number is 147 since 1976 which makes this tweet likely to happen.

     The postcard 16th hole.

    The postcard 16th hole.

     One of the coolest logos in the game.

    One of the coolest logos in the game.

     The often overlooked par 3 10th hole.

    The often overlooked par 3 10th hole.

     The haunted bridge leading to the 3rd hole.  Pro tip:  Everything is haunted at Sleepy Hollow.

    The haunted bridge leading to the 3rd hole.  Pro tip:  Everything is haunted at Sleepy Hollow.

    Another close call on the ace hunt came on the third hole.  With Clinton and Patterson looking on, I fired one right at the stick that landed an inch away from going in on the fly.  Imagine the handshakes and presidential approvals that ace would have received!!  However, the shot will just be another log on the almost and what if dumpster fire.

     The 2nd and 16th holes from above.

    The 2nd and 16th holes from above.

     16 from the tee box.

    16 from the tee box.

    Another day of 36 holes had the tour heading to The Creek Golf Club and Piping Rock.  Both courses are CB Macdonald designs and Ben and I golfed them hard.  If you are feeling frisky, you can listen to the conversation about Ben's tour visit on the RGV Tour Podcast.  

    The Creek was easily one of our favorites from the entire trip.  After the first 5 holes, you head on out to the beach and it is freaking glorious! Piping Rock doesn't get the added benefit of the waterfront views, but it still delivers a great round of golf.

     The 10th hole at The Creek is a short par 4 and a big time favorite.

    The 10th hole at The Creek is a short par 4 and a big time favorite.

     After taking 4 shots on the beach on #10, I took a break and took this picture.

    After taking 4 shots on the beach on #10, I took a break and took this picture.

     The Creek boasts one of the best entrances in golf.

    The Creek boasts one of the best entrances in golf.

     The island Biarritz green is about 90 yards long.

    The island Biarritz green is about 90 yards long.

     The Biarritz 10th from the tee box on #9.

    The Biarritz 10th from the tee box on #9.

     The 11th hole at The Creek.

    The 11th hole at The Creek.

    The roads and infrastructure in New York are, without a doubt, the most difficult that the RGV Tour has encountered.  Each road feels like a never ending series of speed bumps and the rig was bouncing all over the place.  The roads were so bad that the constant banging and shaking caused the screws holding in the microwave to strip completely and emergency repairs needed to be made.  The roads also shook the fire extinguisher off of the wall and the damn thing went off while I was driving.

    Another challenge in New York is that all of the parkways in the city are built with clearances around 7 feet.  When you are driving an 11 foot tall RGV at 60 mph, taking a wrong turn could end up in a seriously bad haircut.  Unfortunately, most of the parkways are the suggested roads on Google Maps, so we had to plan out our route beforehand like it was 1995.

     The short hole at Piping Rock is piping hot.

    The short hole at Piping Rock is piping hot.

     The finisher at Piping Rock finishes up a great day of 36 holes.

    The finisher at Piping Rock finishes up a great day of 36 holes.

    Next up, the tour made a stop at Fenway.  We are not talking about Fenway Park we are talking about Fenway Golf Club.  It is a Tillinghast design and it flies right under the radar.  With so much good golf to play in the area, Fenway doesn't get the notoriety that it deserves.  The course was in excellent condition and with a storm rolling in, we had the place to ourselves.

     The short par 4 15th hole.  This green is smaller than it looks.

    The short par 4 15th hole.  This green is smaller than it looks.

    It must be noted that on the very first hole at Fenway, after hooking his drive into the trees, Ben holed out for an eagle 2.  Not only is Ben a 3 time Sahalee Club Champion, he is also some sort of hole out artist.  

    Ben has 7 lifetime hole in ones with 4 of those aces coming in a 6 month span in the summer of 2016.  After each hole in one, he poses erotically next to the pin and there is a splendid mixture of jealousy, anger, disgust, and arousal.

     Ben celebrates with a double rock out fist

    Ben celebrates with a double rock out fist

     The 7th and 8th holes at Fenway

    The 7th and 8th holes at Fenway

    I would like to take this time to point out my dislike for the statement "You can't see any of the other golf holes except for the one that you are currently on."  Some golfers like to point this out like it's some sort of amazing achievement.  All that really means to me is that the golf hole is surrounded by trees.  

    A good architect will use peaks and glimpses to excite the golfer and distract their attention from the current task.  Walking by the 17th green surrounded by water as you head out for the back nine is a devilish little trick.  My favorite example of such a tactic comes at holes #8 and #9 on Pasatiempo.  With 9 visible in the background it encourages the golfer to think ahead to the next hole when the 8th actually requires much more attention than one would think at first glance. 

    Tillinghast has accomplished a similar feat here on 7 and 8 at Fenway.  The 10th and 11th holes at Essex County Club in Massachusetts are also similar.

    Surprise Bonus Golf Content!!! Connecticut joins the party.

    I know what you are thinking.  "Koenig! I could barely handle all of the NY golf and now we have CT to deal with as well?!!"  Well, those are the breaks. We have a special triumvirate including Fairfield, Yale, and Stanwich coming in hot.

     The golf vibes at Fairfield are some of the best vibes the tour has felt.

    The golf vibes at Fairfield are some of the best vibes the tour has felt.

     The critically acclaimed 'Swale at Yale'. The Biarritz 9th hole is often labeled as the very best of it's kind.

    The critically acclaimed 'Swale at Yale'. The Biarritz 9th hole is often labeled as the very best of it's kind.

     The risk reward 17th hole at Stanwich

    The risk reward 17th hole at Stanwich

    End of Bonus Golf Content

    See, that wasn't so bad.

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    Before we dropped Ben off at JFK, we had time for one last round at Anglebrook Golf Club.  Anglebrook is the final design creation of Robert Trent Jones Sr.  The course is bold and offers plenty of challenging and unique hole designs.  Conditions were pure.

    Our group spent half of the time streaming the final round of The British Open and the other half hitting our golf balls into the woods.  We managed to find a few birdies and laughs along the way.

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     The good times roll on the RGV Tour.

    The good times roll on the RGV Tour.

    After dropping off Ben at the airport so he could resume his "normal life," I needed one more New York round before I could call it quits and bolt for Massachusetts.  That round was to be at Wykagyl Golf Club.  I even had a local caddy request me as he was a fan of The RGV Tour.  What a way to finish this star studded state!

     The 11th hole at Wykagyl was a favorite

    The 11th hole at Wykagyl was a favorite

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    With so much golf in New York left un golfed, it was hard to say goodbye.  This was easily one of my favorite states and one of the most unique challenges.  The RGV Tour must roll on.  

    Bon Jovi was born in New Jersey

    When I originally planned the route for The RGV Tour, I made sure that the summer would be hitting hard when we rolled into town for the big states.  New Jersey was one of those states and summer was here.  Like the title says, Jovi was born in Jersey and The RGV Tour was ready to rock and roll.

    The tour started off at Galloway National and with a birdie on the very first hole.  Immediately after that, I was attacked by green headed flies.  Green heads are not ordinary flies, they are big and they bite hard.  I ran around like a mad man for an entire hole dodging flies and punching myself repeatedly in an effort to survive.  Fortunately, my man on the bag had some bug lotion.  I lubed up in a hurry and the bugs stayed away.  I would survive the ordeal.

     The 17th hole at Galloway is a real scene stealer.

    The 17th hole at Galloway is a real scene stealer.

     The 2nd hole... scene of the fly attack.

    The 2nd hole... scene of the fly attack.

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    Next up on the calendar was another Tom Fazio design, The Ridge at Back Brook.  Things heated up on the ace hunt as I had a couple of laser beam iron shots that just buzzed the cup.  Still no aces on the tour, but the close call count is around a dozen.

    At this point, my game is really rounding into form.  My short game is noticeably sharper every day.  I am much more confident with the putter and I actually believe that I am going to make a large percentage of my putts.  That belief translates to some pretty sweet action on the greens.

    Back in Arkansas, I was playing to a 5 handicap and now it's hovering around .4.  Scratch golfer status is just around the corner. 

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    Somerset Hills had been a long anticipated stop on the tour and the date was finally here.  I arrived early and presided over the lot like only the RGV Tour can.  I was going to be first out on the course on a near perfect day.  The only thing missing that day was the A game.  

    One of the most valuable skills that I have been working on during the tour is how to play bad golf and have a really good time doing it.  Nobody likes to hit bad golf shots and when they start to pile up, it can effect your mood pretty easily.  The key is to get over yourself and realize that nobody cares if you shoot 65 or 85 and they won't remember your actual score no matter what.  What people will always remember is what sort of person you are.  Were you fun to play with or were you a grumpy wanker?  It is my pledge to always make sure that The RGV Tour will be the golf party that you want to join. 

     One of the most enjoyable green complexes in America.

    One of the most enjoyable green complexes in America.

     After ogling this view for years, I finally was able to snap the shot for myself.

    After ogling this view for years, I finally was able to snap the shot for myself.

     The 2nd hole at Somerset Hills is a par 3 redan hole and it is one of the best in America.

    The 2nd hole at Somerset Hills is a par 3 redan hole and it is one of the best in America.

    Although The RGV Tour loves to see the nation's best and most exclusive clubs, it also loves to see the public side of the golf world.  Growing up as a muni kid, these courses will always be the most familiar to me and we had a pretty solid line-up of public courses in New Jersey.  The Architects Golf Club, Neshanic Valley, Highbridge Hills, and Ballyowen were all serious courses and we golfed them seriously hard.

     The Stanley Thompson themed 17th at Architects Golf Club

    The Stanley Thompson themed 17th at Architects Golf Club

    The Architects Golf Club is not your normal golf course.  Each one of the golf holes was designed with a particular Golf Course Architect's stylings in mind.  For example, the 13th hole was designed in the honor of  Alister Mackenzie.  Alister loved to give the golfer a chance to hit the "hero shot" and that's exactly what the 13th hole does.  The reachable par 5 below features a risk reward option with bunkers set into the hillside above the green.  The 17th hole above uses the bunkering style of Stanley Thompson and the 10th hole below has that George C Thomas'  vibe.  You are not going to be magically transported to Riviera, but the golf course is a really fun option for those interested in golf course architecture.

     It's not the 10th hole at Riviera, it's the 10th hole at Architects.

    It's not the 10th hole at Riviera, it's the 10th hole at Architects.

     The risk reward 13th is an ode to Alister Mackenzie

    The risk reward 13th is an ode to Alister Mackenzie

     Neshanic Valley has 2 18 hole tracks and a short 9 for the public to enjoy.

    Neshanic Valley has 2 18 hole tracks and a short 9 for the public to enjoy.

     Ballyowen is another good option for the New Jersey public golfer.

    Ballyowen is another good option for the New Jersey public golfer.

     RGV Tour standout:  Joe Zwickl.  Joe has at least 20 tattoos and will have to give you 20 shots if you want to hang with him.

    RGV Tour standout:  Joe Zwickl.  Joe has at least 20 tattoos and will have to give you 20 shots if you want to hang with him.

     Highbridge Hills was the 2nd round on a day of 36 holes.

    Highbridge Hills was the 2nd round on a day of 36 holes.

    After wrapping up the tour of Jersey's public golf, we headed out to a recently renovated Seth Raynor golf course called Watchung Valley Golf Club.  This is where I ran into a 90 year old golf stud named Al.  Al was hesitant about joining the RGV Tour at first, but I pleaded with him to join me and he relented.  

    Al was the Caddy Master at Watchung for 55 years and they pretty much let him do what he wants these days.  He is also not the sort of golfer that likes to start off with small talk.  By the 3rd hole we were talking concentration camps as Al described his service to the country in World War 2.  

    Below, we see Al escaping from the principal's nose bunker on the 16th hole.  Al was not thrilled about visiting the bunker.  "Damn this bunker!" he would exclaim.  In the end, Al would take 103 strokes to get around the golf course, not bad at all for a guy in his 90's.  Thank you for being a part of The RGV Tour, Al.

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     The 10th hole at Watchung Valley

    The 10th hole at Watchung Valley

    One of New Jersey's finest was up next at Donald Ross' Plainfield Country Club.  I am not a huge Donald Ross fan, but this place is  something else.  I would describe the course as one of Ross' boldest designs and it was a lot of fun to play. It must be noted that in 2011, Gil Hanse would restore the course

    Plainfield CC not only holds a spot in America's Top 100, but it also holds a special place in golf history.  In 1904, Leighton Calkins created the handicap system at Plainfield.  That same system is currently in place today!

     The sporty little 11th hole was one of my favorites.

    The sporty little 11th hole was one of my favorites.

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     In the 1930's the routing of the course was changed and holes 13-15 were added into the layout.  Not everyone thinks these holes blend with the rest of the course and when you head over to the 13th, you can feel the vibes change.  The 15th green is pictured above.

    In the 1930's the routing of the course was changed and holes 13-15 were added into the layout.  Not everyone thinks these holes blend with the rest of the course and when you head over to the 13th, you can feel the vibes change.  The 15th green is pictured above.

    The golf party in New Jersey would end with a serious bang and a seriously good time at Ridgewood Country Club.  While the course was gearing up for the PGA's Northern Trust, The RGV Tour took part in something called "Baroo at 2".  

    Ridgewood Country Club has a great group of members and that group is lead by Bill... or Baroo.  They all get together at 2 on Saturdays to have an old fashioned golf shootout.  Baroo himself was my partner and we were locked into a serious duel.  We started off hot and held a commanding lead at the turn.  That's when I was handed a mighty fine Cuban cigar, I lit that baby up and started to feel the effects of a cigar that was clearly out of my league.  Before we knew it, we were down 3.

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    That's when Baroo and I decided to get serious.  I ditched the cigar and made some birdies to get us back in it.  On the 17th hole,  Baroo hit the shot of the day... The Baroo Bouncer.  From 180 out in some heavy rough he struck it pure and true.  "Go, go, go, sit, sit, no, go, go, I mean sit" were the words Baroo spoke to his golf ball.  In the end, the ball ended up 5 feet from the hole.  After some clean up work, the match was over and Baroo and I were victorious.  

    Just as we rocked into Jersey, it was time to roll on out.

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    The Pennsylvania Party is On

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    After, I finished up in Maryland, I wasted zero time getting over into Pennsylvania.  From a morning 18 in Maryland to an afternoon 18 at Wyncote in Pennsylvania, the state transition was a smooth one.  I even ran into an excited twosome that were fired up to be the first golfers to sign the RGV Tour guest book in Pennsylvania.

    The second round in the state was one of the state's best.  I put Lancaster CC towards the top of the "best surprise" category.  This place is magic and easily one of the best places to play in the state.

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    After that it was time for Billy Black and the legend of Stonewall.  Billy was my caddy for the day.  Billy is 14 years old and he is a total animal on the bag.  What Billy lacked in experience, he made up for enthusiasm.  We even did a little work on the "Caddies of The RGV Tour" photo series.  The idea here is to present caddies in suggestive poses on the golf course.  Then we basically turn it into a calendar and Blam!  Retirement fund!

     The stone wall at Stonewall

    The stone wall at Stonewall

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    With the Gil Hanse designed French Creek just across the street from Stonewall, the tour was not going to not play 36.  Having the opportunity to play a lot of different courses designed by the same architects makes these courses even more fun.  After a while, you start to feel like you know these guys and become familiarized with the challenges and styles that they present with each course.  It is like visiting an old friend... an old friend that you have never met.

    Like any artist, you can see how architects have matured over the years.  French Creek was one of Hanse's earlier designs opening for play in 2004.

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    When visiting Philly on a golf trip, It won't take you long to realize that the city is packed with a ton of golf talent.  I joined up with some serious gamers for an early morning round at Makefield.  I was easily the hack of the group in our power foursome with Dan, Patrick, and Kevin.  My personal highlight of the round came after I topped my 3 wood into the ditch on 18.  Disgusted, I threw down another ball and popped it up on the green to 2 feet.  It was one of the best bogey finishes I can recall.

     Dan approaches 18 after hitting it 900 yards off the tee.

    Dan approaches 18 after hitting it 900 yards off the tee.

     The tour's other Patrick poses hard.

    The tour's other Patrick poses hard.

    One of the few solid options for public golf in the Philly area is the Golf Club at Glen Mills.  I met up with one of the tour's most passionate players,  a man by the name of Mike Zinda.  Mike has cataracts and it can be difficult for him to see his ball.  Most of the time he just goes by feel and hopes to find it out in the fairway.  Imagine playing by yourself and saying "I think that went left" and just hunting for it in the rough?  Mike doesn't mind at all though and I was happy to hunt down his golf shots with him.  The limitations that golfers overcome to play the game is always inspiring.  Like a true golf nut, Mike would make a return trip to the tour at Neshanic Valley.

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    It was the 4th of July and it was time to celebrate America.  The RGV Tour chose to celebrate with golf, hot dogs, and USA pin flags at Huntingdon Valley Golf Club.  The flag game is actually quite fun.  Every player gets a flag and gets a total number of strokes based on handicaps.  If you are an 11 handicap, you would get 83 shots, I got 73 shots as a 1 handicap.  Then you just put your flag in the ground where you ball comes to rest after 83, or 73 shots.  If you make it past 18, you start on 1 and just keep playing until you run out of shots.  The winner is whomever makes it the furthest.  

    With several hot birdies out of the gates, it looked like I was gonna have to play an extra 9 holes.  However, reality set in and I only made  it to 17 green.  The good news is that our group was seriously fun and we raised a healthy sum of $$ for the First Tee of Greater Seattle.  The original $10k goal is going to be reached well ahead of time.

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    The RGV Tour consistently hunts down and attracts the biggest golf nuts in the world and in Pennsylvania, we found one of the biggest golf nuts the world has to offer.  I am talking about Author Tom Coyne who would quickly become one of my favorite guests on the RGV Tour.

    Tom walked 40 courses and the entire country of Ireland for his NY Time's Best Seller "A Course Called Ireland" and played 111 courses in two months for "A Course Called Scotland."  So Tom is perfectly suited for life on the RGV Tour... he is my cup of tea.  None of us brought our A games to Waynesborough Country Club  but we did have an A+ time.  

    I sat down with Tom for a lively discussion in the Bride's room at Waynesborough Country Club.  This RGV Tour Podcast is worth a listen.  Tom has also just released "A Course Called Scotland" and it would be wise to pick up a copy here

     The 10th at Waynesborough

    The 10th at Waynesborough

    Up next was another Philly area surprise.  With the quality of golf courses being so high in the area, courses like White Manor were not on my radar before visiting the area.  Readers please note, that this course should definitely be on your Philly golf radar.  We ended up finishing in the rain.  But it was more like making birdies and clutch putts down the stretch like golf animals.

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    Eventually the rain would give up, but The RGV Tour would not.  We never stop golfing on the RGV Tour.  Never.

    RGV Tour player Kevin and I headed down the road to take on Applebrook, another fantastic Gil Hanse design In the area.  We made a handful of birdies and finished up the day of 36 with plenty of sun left in the day.  

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     Sandy saves at Applebrook

    Sandy saves at Applebrook

     The 9th at Applebrook

    The 9th at Applebrook

    Fittingly, I scarfed down a Philly cheesesteak sandwich on my way out Pennsylvania.  The RGV Tour leaves every state saying, "I will miss this state."  But Pennsylvania, I will miss you more.

    Maryland

    Maryland started off with a serious bang.  That bang was actually a knock on my RGV door at 6:18 in the morning.  I woke up in an instant and realized that I was scheduled for a 6:30 tee time.  When you wake up 12 minutes before your tee time, you usually don't end up making that tee time.  However, I was sleeping in the golf course parking lot and made it to the tee box with time to spare.

    The event was The Summer Solstice at Little Bennett Golf Course presented by The Hive.  The Hive is a group of Maryland & DC based golfers that have created their own USGA golf club.  They don't have a course but they put on some great events for their members.  This event was a personal best ball format.  Each golfer was allowed to play as much golf as possible in one day and piece together their best 18 hole score.  

     The view on 18 before the 1st tee shot was struck

    The view on 18 before the 1st tee shot was struck

    The strategy is to play aggressive and make a lot of birdies.  If you make a double, you've got a chance to replace it with a par on your 2nd or 3rd round.  If you make it around a 4th time, that gives you 4 cracks at each hole.  It's a wildly fun format that relieves the pressure on some holes and really ups the ante on holes that you have previously played poorly.  

     Somewhere during the 2nd round.

    Somewhere during the 2nd round.

     The view on the 55th hole

    The view on the 55th hole

     The view on the 66th hole.

    The view on the 66th hole.

    During my time at The Solstice, I learned that I need about 41 golf holes to really find my game.  Once I found it, I shot down some flags and rolled in some putts.  I slowly lowered my score by erasing pars with birdies and replacing double bogies with eagles.  When the sun set and the dust cleared, we had golfed 65 holes and I had a 62 on my scorecard.  That 62 would be good enough for a 1 shot victory.  

    Since this is a charitable endeavor, I took my winnings and donated them to The First Tee.  If I have learned one thing on this trip, it's that giving is the easiest way to get back.  If you look at the world's most successful and influential people, they all make a practice to give more than they receive.  So if you follow this logic, it actually makes sense for you to donate out of selfish reasons.  Just click the link to donate and become part of the magic.  

     Even on a cloudy day, the view of the Washington Monument pops through at East Potomac.

    Even on a cloudy day, the view of the Washington Monument pops through at East Potomac.

    After the solstice, it was time to head into the nation's capital and do some golfing in the district.  My partner was an RGV Tour player by the name of Zack Bass.  Zack has a great passion for the game and was excited to be a part of the tour.  While East Potomac in Washington DC is not a top tier course, the location is very cool and the company was as good as it gets.

    After grinding out some pars and bogies for most of the day, Zack had a pretty good look on 16 for birdie.  Sensing a big moment, I grabbed my camera.  Like a natural born superstar, Zack rolled in the birdie putt and I captured the magic on my camera.  The RGV Tour searches for those that possess the 'golf zest' and Zack has it in spades.  What a way to earn your RGV Tour card with style.

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    The best part about golfing early, is that it usually leaves some time to golf late as well.  Naturally, I headed on over to Whiskey Creek to enjoy the second half of a 36 hole day.  Whiskey Creek is a public golf course designed by Ernie Els and a great option for play in the DC area.

    The tour ran into some unusual drama out at Whiskey Creek and you can hear all the details about it on the podcast episode.  The good news is that drama was handled very well by the staff at Whiskey Creek and we even ran into the RGV Tour's latest award winner, Emma.  In a landslide victory, Emma now holds the title of "Best RGV Tour Golf Course Bartender."  Keep on serving those Diet Cokes, Emma.  

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     The finish hole at Whiskey Creek

    The finish hole at Whiskey Creek

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    Next on the RGV agenda, was Congressional Country Club's blue course.  Congressional has hosted 3 US Opens, with the first being won by Ken Venturi in 1964.  Ernie Els won the event in 1997 and in 2011, Rory McIlroy added a US Open at Congressional to his trophy case.  The course has also hosted a PGA Championship and a US Senior Open.  Although it is not officially listed on Congressional's website, The RGV Tour would visit in June of 2018.

    The club house is massive and the first thing I did when arriving on the property was proceed to get lost.  I highly recommend this strategy as a method for exploration.  I ran into all sorts of history and pictures... I even helped a bird that had flown into the building escape.   The clubhouse is the largest in the entire nation and I would suggest wandering around for a while if you have the chance to visit.

     The 10th hole is a par 3 over the water.

    The 10th hole is a par 3 over the water.

     The iconic 18th hole at Congressional

    The iconic 18th hole at Congressional

    The RGV Tour visit to Congressional featured two outstanding RGV Tour players named Kevin and Ford.  The golf IQ was exceptionally high with these two and some top notch tales were traded.  Ford can also bomb the ball about 340 yards, so we played 7200 yards which made for plenty of 4 irons into greens.  On this day, those 4 irons were struck true and a good number of birdies were found.

    Congressional will quickly punish wayward shots and continually test good but not great golf shots.  Every inch of grass out there is challenging but manageable if you are playing good golf.  Congressional is just a serious test of golf that tested us good.

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    Next up was Queenstown Harbor with Chris and Ryan.  Whatever, I can say about this round, Ryan probably said it better.  In one of my favorite posts on The RGV Tour, Ryan does a great job of explaining the day and giving some great insight on what it's like to join the tour.  The only thing that Ryan forgets to mention is the strength Chris' outfit for the day.  His shirt is red, his shoes are red, even his putter is red.  It is a red hot RGV Tour ensemble.  Chris knows how to golf party hard.

    Since the beginning, I have always felt like each round on the RGV Tour is special and it was great to hear Ryan's take on the day.  I highly suggest reading his piece below.

     Chris matches his shirts, shoes, and even his putter with an all word RGV Tour scripting.

    Chris matches his shirts, shoes, and even his putter with an all word RGV Tour scripting.

     Ryan fans one out to the right but poses on it hard.

    Ryan fans one out to the right but poses on it hard.

     A good chunk of the back nine at Queenstown Harbor

    A good chunk of the back nine at Queenstown Harbor

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    The Country Club of Maryland plays 6,328 yards.  If you look at that yardage and determine that the golf course is a pushover, you would be wrong.  Playing to a par 70, the course is every bit as challenging as it's 7000 yard counterparts.  RGV Tour player Jeremy and I tackled the course on an outstanding Tuesday afternoon.  Jeremy is an English Teacher and is really working on honing his game during the summer break.

    Jeremy and I decided to have a duel in the summer heat and we started slugging it out right away.  No hole was halved on the first 10 holes and after the tenth hole the match was all square.  That's when I turned on the birdie buzz saw, the course turns up the difficulty down the stretch and I turned up the heat.  In the end, I emerged with the victory but both of us emerged with smiles.  It was another great day on The RGV Tour.

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    On a hot tip from Jeremy, I decided to take in a baseball game to give my golfing senses a break.  Camden Yard is a great place to watch a game.  I highly recommend the crab dip waffle fries and some ice cream in a miniature helmet.  

    The Seattle Mariners beat the Orioles 3-2.  It is odd to think that the entire MLB season will actually be over by the time I see Seattle again.  Now that I think about it, the entire NFL season will actually start and finish as well.  We got a long ways to go, folks.

    After 6 rounds in Maryland, It was time for the finale.  Just like the ending in Terminator 2, this one would not disappoint.  The good news: nobody gets dipped into molten steel in the end.  Instead of self aware robots, it was Pete Dye and his railroad ties at Bulle Rock Golf Club.

    I am sure that I will say this a hundred more times, but the people of the RGV Tour really keep this golf engine pumping and the duo that I met up with at Bulle Rock were no exception. From the moment they recognized me speeding by in a golf cart, Mike and Mike were some of my favorite tour players.  

    Mike K. works at Under Armour and for most of the front nine, Mike M and I were trying to land some sort of million dollar sponsorship deal.  Let's just say, I don't think they are gonna trade in Spieth for Koenig anytime soon.  Mike M also had quite an interesting journey to share.  From manning commercial ocean liners around the world to running the show at your local Home Depot, Mike kept us entertained all day long.

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    Just like that, the Maryland chapter came to a close and I headed into Pennsylvania for a seriously jam packed state.

    With the Fourth of July coming up, there are sure to be some serious fireworks in Philly!

    Virginia is for golfers

    Virginia was the first leg of the journey where I really started to feel the wear of being out here on my own.  As the tour approached the 5 month mark, I really started to miss my wife, my friends, and my family.  But the fact of the matter remains... this golf train is in motion and it can't be stopped.  On a positive note, the amazing people that I meet along the way dull the loneliness and give inspiration to keep things rocking.

    There are some mighty fine people and golf courses in this state and I golfed em hard.  They say that Virgina is for lovers, but maybe it's just for people that love golf.  The first course on the agenda was The Highlands Course at Primland.  It wasn't easy to get to, but it was worth the drive.

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    After a rousing round at Primland, it was time to head out for a serious golf escape at Ballyhack.  Part of the Dormie Network, Ballyhack is one of Virginia's finest places to play.  Built on top of an old dairy farm, the undulations are dramatic, the views are stunning, and the course is fun to play. The photos from Ballyhack were some of my favorites over the last several months.

    Membership to Ballyhack is just as unique as the course.  If you love to travel and golf, I would suggest clicking here.

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    After watching a little US Open action and popping off the attached PSA, I headed out to Poplar Grove.  This would be a round that would nearly go down in the record books.

    After starting off poorly, I got hot in an instant on the 14th hole with a nice little birdie.  I followed that up with another nice putt for birdie on the 15th and then I made a pretty casual eagle on the par 5 16th.  Holy crap, who am I?

    With my sights set on 4 in a row, I stuffed one in there tight on the par 3 17th and then rolled that in.  Just like that, I was in record territory with a shot at a personal best 5 in a row.  The good play continued and I had a 5 footer on 18 to finish the final 5 holes in 6 under par.  

    It never ever came close.  I pushed this thing so far right that you would have thought I shot 108 on the day.  Maybe some day I will have another look.

     The golf magic started here on the 14th hole.

    The golf magic started here on the 14th hole.

     The scene of The RGV Tour's 3rd eagle on 16 at Poplar Grove.

    The scene of The RGV Tour's 3rd eagle on 16 at Poplar Grove.

    After spending the night in a Wal Mart parking lot and running some early morning RGV errands, I headed over to Spring Creek in Gordonsville for what may have been the hottest day on tour.  As I walked up to the golf shop, I could feel my face melting.  Thankfully, the rain would come in the late afternoon and cool things off.  I also got a haircut to help with too much hair causing me to overheat.  Not sure if that is an actual thing or not, but it felt right.  

    For my round at Spring Creek, I made 3 double bogies, 4 birdies, and 11 pars.  Which on the 'interesting scorecard scale' is about 7/10.

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    Next up was a highly anticipated day... my sobriety day.  I had purposely paired it up with a highly anticipated round at Kinloch Golf Club.  Today was going to be a good day and the anticipation lived up to the hype.  If you ever get the chance to play Kinloch make sure that you get a grilled PB&J at the turn.  I had 2 of them.

    The more of myself that I put out there, the more people give back and the outpouring I received on Twitter alone was amazing.  Thanks to everyone who was part of my 13 year celebration.

    For a homeless golf hobo like myself, one of the nicest things about being invited to some of these private clubs is the locker room facilities.  With one of the heaviest flow showers I have experienced, Kinloch gave me a serious cleaning.  I should be good for another week or so.  

    The golf course also happens to be one of the best in the world.  Designed by Lester George, Kinloch is littered with so many strategic decisions.  Most courses provoke strategic thought on only a handful of holes but Kinloch gives you something to mull over on just about every golf hole.  I love a golf course that makes you think and engages your brain.

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    I would return late to Virginia on a special request form Michael McCartin.  Mike is a member of Tom Doak's team, Renaissance Golf Design.  As often happens with these teams, members break off to start their own independent projects.  This was the case for Mike and The Schoolhouse Nine.  

    Located an hour or so outside of DC in Sperryville, VA, Mike had the chance to build his very first golf course in 2015.  With limited land and resources, he created a unique and fun place to play.  The green complexes are the centerpiece of the design and feature fantastic undulations allowing for varied play depending on the daily pin position.  So many decisions are made when constructing a golf course and I was treated to all of the explanations from the course's creator.

    For my visit, the rain was dumping down hard and with flash flooding in the area, we decided to tee off.  Since sand capping and irrigated fairways were not really in the budget, we decided to play barefoot through the tide pools and rip currents that had replaced the normally grassy meadows.  This was one of the RGV Tour's more memorable stops.  What a way to cap off the state.

     

    North Carolina

    We have got 9 courses to cover in North Carolina and there isn't a bad round in the bag.  Strap in folks, because North Carolina is one of America's greatest golfing states.  The action got started out at Grandfather Golf Club.  The good news about starting off in the Cherokee National Forest is that the weather is significantly cooler.  This was a much needed break from the previous sweat fest in South Carolina.

     Just imagine the 60 degree weather!

    Just imagine the 60 degree weather!

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    There is a high concentration of quality golf courses in this area and unfortunately, I only had time for a couple of them.  I was certainly satisfied with my decision to pay a visit to nearby Elk River Club.  The club is not very well known in golf circles outside of North Carolina, but I found it to be one of my favorites in the state.

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    After a great couple of rounds in the mountains, the tour made it's way into Charlotte for what would be one of my favorite tour stops in North Carolina.  I was meeting up with the Thrift brothers, Payne and Wilson, to play Charlotte CC.  While these two don't have their high school diplomas, they do have a pretty good golf education and took me on an excellent tour of Charlotte CC.  There was even a pretty good sibling rivalry match going on.  In an upset victory, younger brother Wilson took the victory over Payne.

    Afterwards, I sat down with the entire Thrift family and we enjoyed a marvelous home cooked meal.  The conversation was just as amazing as the salmon.  

    Thank you very much to the Thrift family for inviting The RGV Tour into your home and your driveway.  Upon departing, the tour was honored with a fine American flag painting to commemorate the visit.  It is proudly displayed in the living quarters of the RGV.  This is as amazing as it gets.

     Payne and Wilson work the bridge.  Strong male modeling careers lie ahead.

    Payne and Wilson work the bridge.  Strong male modeling careers lie ahead.

     Wilson storms down the back nine to take the victory over Payne.

    Wilson storms down the back nine to take the victory over Payne.

     Charlotte has got a much bigger skyline than I expected

    Charlotte has got a much bigger skyline than I expected

    After a brief stint over to the North Carolina coast and Eagle Point, it was time to welcome Kenzie O Connell onto the RGV Tour.  I picked her up at the airport in the RGV, which is just about as classy as it gets.  After meeting up with an old friend of mine from San Francisco named Chandley, we got to work on putting together the first ever RGV Tour promotional video.  These results should speak for themselves.  Tour interest has risen 250% after this video hit the internet.

    Up next on the never ending golf journey was Pinehurst No 5 and The Cradle with Unkl Ben.  He's not my uncle or a rapper, that's just his Instagram name.  Ben is an employee of Pinehurst on the maintenance staff and was eager to show off his golf courses to us.  We gladly obliged.  While No. 5 is an excellent round of golf, it was The Cradle that really grabbed our attention.

    The Cradle is a 9 hole short course designed by Gil Hanse and the yardages range from 50 to 127.  So, you won't need many clubs.  For what you do decide to bring, they give you a nice little carry bag for your round.  My favorite part about The Cradle is that in the afternoons, they pump the jams.  *You can dance if you want to, just don't leave your friends behind. *Safety Dance

    Our crew did a little dancing and set out after some aces.  We found some birdies but nothing went in the hole.  I am still scratching my head on one of my shots.  "How does it bounce there and end up there without going in?"  I have said that phrase too many times.

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     Kenzie O Connell makes birdie on #2 at The Cradle

    Kenzie O Connell makes birdie on #2 at The Cradle

     My Callaway wedges rocked the cradle.

    My Callaway wedges rocked the cradle.

    Up next was the RGV Tour Open out at Dormie Club.  The Dormie Club is a consistent favorite in the Pinehurst area and we had a gang of golfers ready to tee it up in the name of the First Tee.  We had alerted the local news and we had some coverage from the press.  Ted Fitzgerald wound up getting some great photos from the event and we ended up on the front page of The Pilot.  The Pilot is pretty much the New York Times of Southern Pines.

    Since it was so hot, Kenzie and I decided to play barefoot in order to keep cool.  I did wear sandals for maybe 50% of the time and there is also a video of me high kicking my sandal into the air after syncing a tough putt for par.  

    In the sponsor group, Kenzie and I teed it up with Luke and Andy from Lie & Loft.  These guys run a golf design company that makes some really cool stuff connecting golf and the home.  Their motto: Golf is Home.  Man, what a sentence!  Golf couldn't be more of a home for me on this journey.   The Lie & Loft folks gave away some great prizes to our Gross and Net Champions.  To see what they are cooking up next, check em out here.

    Afterwards, Kenzie posed for an impromptu toilet modeling session.  Yes, you will need to tune into the podcast to get the full explanation.

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     Toilet Model, Kenzie O Connell

    Toilet Model, Kenzie O Connell

    Next up:  FOOD POISONING!!!  I wanted pizza, but I ended up with a Shrimp Po' Boy at the Hickory Tavern.  I wouldn't be the same for a full week.  Ha, nice try golf gods, but I am gonna keep after it.  Just because you have food poisoning doesn't mean you have to stop playing golf.  The first test of this theory came at Tobacco Road.  The good news is that Tobacco Road is a wildly fun place to play golf and I managed to pull through.

     A look from behind the green on 14 at Tobacco Road

    A look from behind the green on 14 at Tobacco Road

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     The always fun par 5 13th at Tobacco Road

    The always fun par 5 13th at Tobacco Road

    After Tobacco Road, It was time for Kenzie to hop off of the golf train and return to reality.  It is always a pleasure having a co-pilot on the journey and Kenzie was a fantastic one.  The Tour gives Kenzie a 5 golf ball co-pilot rating.  When it comes to RGV Tour Co pilot ratings, that's the highest co-pilot rating possible.  It's pretty much like receiving an Oscar.

    For the head pilot, it was time to move forward and back into the mountains.  I had two tee times lined up at several of North Carolina's best.  It was Wade Hampton and then Mountaintop.  At Wade Hampton, the sickness of the Shrimp Po' Boy was still coursing through my veins, but I managed to keep my senses intact and even make a couple of birdies.  

    The attention to detail that the maintenance team at Wade Hampton takes is simply outstanding.  While I was out there, they were raking the creeks to make sure that they flow clean with fresh mountain water.

     The stunning 17th at Wade Hampton.  They spend about $15k each year making sure those 2 trees remain disease free.

    The stunning 17th at Wade Hampton.  They spend about $15k each year making sure those 2 trees remain disease free.

     The wildly challenging 3rd hole at Wade Hampton

    The wildly challenging 3rd hole at Wade Hampton

     A look back on 18 from the clubhouse porch

    A look back on 18 from the clubhouse porch

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     The 17th green from high up

    The 17th green from high up

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    After existing on crackers for several days, my body was slowly making a recovery.  Which is good because Mountaintop's snack shacks are serious business.  You can get just about anything your heart/stomach desires.  I went with a steamed turkey and cheese sandwich that soothed my stomach like never before.  As I headed out of North Carolina and into Virginia the zest was beginning to return.

    It is swampy in South Carolina!

    It's got a ton of charm, it's filled with alligators, and it's got a lot of golf to play.  It's South Carolina!  The Tour started off at Jack Nicklaus' May River.  It's one of his finest designs and I had the pleasure of employing one of the course's finest caddies.  He was so good that after the round he invited the tour to come crash on his front lawn on the banks of the May River.  This Southern Hospitality is no joke!

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    Next up was a visit to Coore and Crenshaw's Chechessee Creek Club.  Very little earth was moved on this piece of property and it was. a pleasure to see what Coore and Crenshaw can do with just about any piece of land that they are given.  The greens at Chechessee Creek offer the course's biggest challenge.  Find yourself in the wrong spot and it's wildly difficult to save par.  I saved a couple, but found plenty of bogie fates.

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    As a youngster, I grew up playing a 9 hole course called Arlington Park.  The course has zero bunkers and offers up 5 par 3's and 4 par 4's, the longest being just 300 yards.  I was completely content and fell in love with the little neighborhood golf course.  Eventually, I would come to realize that there are other golf courses in this world and the first course to really open my eyes was Kiawah Island's Ocean Course.

    When I was 13, my Dad took me out to play the Ocean Course and I remember him paying $140 for the greens free.  For one round of golf it was 150% more than my annual membership to Arlington Park.  Holy crap!

    I would rise to the moment and turn in the best golfing round of my life at that time and shoot an impressive 75.  For years, I would remember in vivid detail the long curving birdie putt that I made on #10.  Needless to say, I was excited to return.

    Over the years, the course has been softened in some areas for resort play and the current conditions are less wild and much more manicured.  The Ocean Course still remains one of the most beautiful places to golf in the world.  I would play well again but only manage a 77 on Pete Dye's marvelous creation.

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    After I cleaned the sand out of my shoes, I headed on down to play Kiawah's Osprey Point.  With 4 high quality public courses at Kiawah Island, it is a serious golfing destination.  You have great options with Cougar Point and Turtle Point.  There are also several private courses on the island that I have yet to play.

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     The sun sets over Osprey Point and another day on The RGV Tour ends.

    The sun sets over Osprey Point and another day on The RGV Tour ends.

    After Kiawah had soothed my golfing soul, it was time to head out to Myrtle Beach.  My first stop was not at a golf course but at a golf school.  I had the chance to meet up with the students and staff at the Golf Academy of America in Myrtle Beach.  It is always great to meet up with people that have a similar zest for the game of golf and these folks are some of the most passionate that I have encountered. If you are interested in learning more, send me a message.

    After touring the facilities, we headed out to play some golf at nearby Wachesaw Plantation Club with Brandon Canesi.  Brandon is not your ordinary golfer, he has a disability that would stop most of us from ever picking up a golf club.  Brandon was born with a condition called limb reduction and he has no hands.  However, that hasn't stopped this young buck from tearing up the course.  You can check out Brandon in the video below and head over to the RGV Tour podcast to hear my conversation with him.

    After a full day in class, it was time to pick it up a notch with a full day of 36 at Glen Dornach and The Dunes Golf & Beach Club.  I met up with an enthusiastic RGV Tour player named John McCabe that made the day a lot of fun.  The tour extends a big thanks to John for setting things up and his generous donation to The First Tee.

     The double green of holes 18 and 9 at Glen Dornach lies right on the Intercoastal Waterway

    The double green of holes 18 and 9 at Glen Dornach lies right on the Intercoastal Waterway

     One of my favorite approach shots in South Carolina is the 16th at Glen Dornach

    One of my favorite approach shots in South Carolina is the 16th at Glen Dornach

     One of my favorite tee markers, that's a gator with a golf ball in his mouth.

    One of my favorite tee markers, that's a gator with a golf ball in his mouth.

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    Before heading out of Myrtle Beach, I decided to pay a visit to Caledonia.  Designed by Mike Strantz, it's easy to see why his courses are a favorite with many golfers.  Mike's designs are bold and most importantly a lot of fun to play.  In a country where a lot of the golf courses can blend together, Mike does a great job of making his tracks stand out.

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    With one final round to play in South Carolina, the tour headed east to find a pair of rowdy RGV Tour players in Greenville SC.  The Tour met up with Jimmy Ferguson and Richard Cox at Greenville CC.  These guys score exceptionally high in the golf IQ category and scored pretty well on the actual golf course as well.

    The tour can be a grind and it certainly wears on you over time.  However, it's the spirit of the people that want to get involved that keep me going.  It amazes me how many times I have shown up to a golf course with a mundane attitude and immediately snapped out of it when I meet an excited new RGV Tour golfer.  To all of you RGV Tour players... Thank you so much for keeping it fresh, fun, and inspirational.

     The approach to the 9th hole at Greenville CC's Chanticleer Course

    The approach to the 9th hole at Greenville CC's Chanticleer Course

     The 18th at Greenville CC would be the final hole golfed in South Carolina.

    The 18th at Greenville CC would be the final hole golfed in South Carolina.

    Florida

    When I looked at Florida while originally planning my journey, I remember thinking... don't get sucked into Florida too deep, you could die out there.  However, I would get sucked in deep, the good news is that I would not die.

    I started off the state with a visit to Capital City Country Club and a round with Golf Scribe, Jay Revell.  The first thing that I recognized about the course are the impressive live oaks dripping with Spanish Moss.  They are beautiful and it is awfully hard to capture their full essence with a camera.  I also recognized Jay's short game as particularly precise.

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    As I headed down the gulf coast of Florida, I ran into a couple other mighty fine places to golf my ball.  I am talking about World Woods.  Bad name, bad logo, great courses.  They have two courses out there to enjoy, Pine Barrens and Rolling Oaks.  Pine Barrens is the more noteworthy of the two, but both courses are worth playing.  We would avoid the rain and get in 36.  Just about every day during the Florida leg, rain would threaten but never actually come.

    The inspirational story of the month comes from RGV Tour player Mark Thomas who was battling a bad back but made it out to the course anyways.  Mark was not to be denied his RGV Tour card and played his heart out over all 36 holes.  It's players like Mark, who make the RGV Tour special.

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    As you pull into Black Diamond Ranch, you get a quick glimpse of the famous 5 quarry holes that make the place so special.  The bad news is that you have to wait until the back nine to play them.  That stretch of holes comes on 13-17 of the aptly named Quarry course.  There is also a Ranch course and a 9 hole Highlands course.  That's 45 holes of Tom Fazio golf!

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    Every year, the Copperhead course at Innisbrook hosts the Valspar Championship.  It's a pretty decent tour stop and in 2018, Tiger Woods joined the field.  With Tiger's appearance, the size and revenue of the tournament effectively doubled.  Tiger would contend and narrowly missed out on a playoff as he made it through the Snake Pit.  The Snake Pit consists of holes 16-18 and they are notoriously difficult.

    After being joined by a couple of the local pros on the front nine, I played the back nine by myself.  As I made my way into the Snake Pit, I gave myself a challenge...  even par "wins the Valspar."  The story played out in dramatic fashion on my Instagram Story.  After making bogey on 16 and par on 17, I needed a birdie 3 on 18.  With the "invisible crowd" sensing a big moment, I delivered an 8 iron that nestled in tight setting up a 9 foot putt for birdie and the win.  Moments later, the crowd would storm the green as I canned the winning putt.

    I probably have too much fun with these made up scenarios, but it keeps things fresh when you are golfing every day and sometimes by yourself.  I am certainly not Tiger Woods, but it is fun to feel like him. 

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     The snake at the snake pit signifies your entrance to the pit.

    The snake at the snake pit signifies your entrance to the pit.

    With a day up in the air, I decided to fill the missing link in my Streamsong portfolio... Gil Hanse's Black Course.  It was as hot as Hades, but I was glad I made the walk.  The pictures below should give you an indication of how big and bold the design is.  Plenty of sand and plenty of strategic golf holes.  My favorite being the 9th, which is a blind approach to a punch bowl green.  The excitement of walking over those hills on an "Alps" hole after you hit one right at it, is pure golf bliss.  The anticipation and excitement of learning your fate is fantastic.  Even if it's over the green, you still have that hope.  Fortunately, mine was in there tight.

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    By this point, I am way too deep into Florida, but I keep going deeper.  I am talking about Naples and Calusa Pines... and it was worth the travel deep into the state.  We managed to play 18 and then headed around again after a rainstorm left the course wide open for us.  We even managed to do a little par 3 RGV rooftop range practice after the round.  What a day out at Calusa!

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    Now that I had made it down to Naples, the trick was to extract myself quickly, and I looked to my friend Arnold Palmer for inspiration.  Having watched his tournament every year on tv, it was finally time to play.  The course is not especially unique but the finish is quite strong and the Arnie vibes are magnificent.

     The iconic 18th from the air.

    The iconic 18th from the air.

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    I managed to get out of Florida with only playing a couple of more rounds at Reunion Resort and Amelia Island Plantation.  First up was Reunion Resort.  With 3 courses designed by Nicklaus, Player, and Watson, the resort is the only one it's kind in the world.  The short par 4 7th shown below is my personal favorite.

    The round at Amelia Island Plantation would be my farewell to the state of Florida and a good precursor of the swamps to come in South Carolina.

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    Georgia

    Once the tour wrapped up in Tennessee, it was time to head south into Georgia.  Things started off at Lookout Mountain, an excellent Seth Raynor Design.  After Lookout Mountain, you could say it all went downhill from there.  

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    Things heated up as the tour rolled into Atlanta and pulled up to Candler Park for the very first RGV Tour One Club Open.  The only rule..  you are only allowed the use of one club.  We had a small turnout, but the competition was fierce and a lot of fun.  I have learned that smaller groups help you to focus on the individuals and that can be much more rewarding.  This was certainly the case at The RGV One Club Open.  Afterwards, the Tour spent an evening on the town and the night in the driveway of tournament organizer, Mark Thomas.  

    When I pulled into Atlanta, I knew there was a lot of golf to be golfed.  However, I didn't fully realize the depth of golf that exists in this city.  With my invitation out to Peachtree still pending, I took on a lot of the area's other top notch golf courses.  First up was Rivermont.

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    The actually make all of their own wicker baskets at Rivermont and the maintenance staff has become quite adept at basket weaving.  While Merion has red and orange baskets, the club at Rivermont opted for yellow.

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    The next day, the tour woke up and rolled out to Druid Hills where I had the pleasure of meeting up and playing with Ryan Bush.  Ryan and his wife Katie have started something called the ForeHadley foundation and it does fantastic work in a field where little else is being done.

    Ryan and Katie have a sad, powerful, and inspiring story to share and each year they host a golf tournament to raise funds to combat a relatively unknown birth defect called CDH.  The RGV Tour is extremely proud to be associated with individuals like Ryan, Katie and their foundation.  You can learn more and support their mission on their website.  

     Ryan scrambles hard to save par

    Ryan scrambles hard to save par

     Nice little view of Atlanta from above Druid Hills

    Nice little view of Atlanta from above Druid Hills

    Next up comes the wildly scenic Currahee Club and it started off with a birdie.  7 pars later, I was looking to close out a mistake free front nine.  Naturally, I shanked one into the woods.  I grumbled something along the lines of "there goes that par" as I proceeded to tee up another ball and rip It down the middle.

    With 160 left, I hit a solid approach that ran off the left slope and heading towards the pin.  Almost always in these situations, the ball just crosses over the pin and that's that.  But there is always a little glimmer of hope that something special might happen.  Doing what I could to encourage my golf ball, I yelled "GET IN."  And just like that, my Callaway Chrome Soft Taco Bell golf ball listened.  It hit the pin and dropped in the hole.  I had saved par from 160 and the party in the fairway was on!

    Naturally, I wanted to keep the streak going and fortunately, the good play and the pars continued.  When I reached the 17th green, I faced a long birdie putt to keep things rolling.  In glorious fashion, I proceeded to 4 putt.  Golf!!

     The scene of the dreaded streak ending 4 putt at Currahee Club

    The scene of the dreaded streak ending 4 putt at Currahee Club

     A big thanks to Billy Pratt for making the RGV Tour stop at Currahee Club special.

    A big thanks to Billy Pratt for making the RGV Tour stop at Currahee Club special.

    Probably my favorite Tour stop in the Atlanta area was Piedmont Driving Club.  It's a Rees Jones design that was established in 2000, the club itself has been around since 1887.  The pictures below were some of my favorite in the entire state.

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     The exceptionally tiny 19th hole

    The exceptionally tiny 19th hole

    What a better way to finish up a jam packed state than with a day of 36.  I started off in the rain at Tom Watson's The Manor and ended up golfing in the sun with RGV Tour Player, Steven Hastings, at The Governors Towne Club

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    As I left the state of Georgia and headed into Florida, I ran into this guy, who gave me a chuckle.