RGV Tour Blog

The RGV Tour Finale: Bandon Dunes

This was it, the time had finally come for the RGV Tour to come to an end. The final putt would be holed and the final ace attempt would be made. It was going to be a glorious mix of accomplishment and sadness. There was no better setting on earth for the experience than Bandon Dunes.

The invites were sent out and only a few brave souls ended up making the journey to Bandon Dunes. Here is the hall of fame roster for those that made the journey to the end.

  • Evan Johnsen - Golf Party Coordinator

  • Patrick Koenig - Head of Golf Party Operations

  • Grant Gulick - RGV Tour Staff Pro

  • Ted Schroeder - The Missing Piece

  • Colin Hershey - Mr. Delicious

  • Sean Ogle - Breaking Eighty

  • Joe Garvey - Captain Joe

  • Paul Quella - Mr. Golf Groans

  • Amanda Kastning - RGV Tour Staff Caddie

You have 5 different golf courses to choose from at Bandon Dunes and first up on the finale festivities was Old Macdonald or “Old Mac.” The golf course was designed by Tom Doak and Jim Urbina. The idea was a simple one, to build the golf course that legendary architect Charles Blair Macdonald would have built on the Oregon coast.

The 7th hole at Old Macdonald finishes on the ocean.

The 7th hole at Old Macdonald finishes on the ocean.

Born in 1855, CB Macdonald was a driving force in early American golf. He built the first 18-hole course in the United States, won the first U.S. Amateur, and later created some of the most influential golf courses in America.

MacDonald identified 21 different designs or template holes from the greatest golf holes in the British Isles. CB would use these template holes on his American designs. The templates are pretty easy to identify and with a little knowledge, you can be a part of the cool kids club. The holes are similar from course to course but they are not replicas. Each hole was designed specifically for that particular property and the genius resides in how they fit into the land.

Using these classic concepts of design, Tom and Jim have built my current favorite course on the property. I say current because on just about every visit to Bandon Dunes my favorite course on the property changes. When I first visited Bandon Dunes, I had no education on golf architecture and Old Mac was at the bottom of the list. Times have changed.

The “Maiden” 14th hole at Old Mac

The “Maiden” 14th hole at Old Mac

The large “Biarritz” green on the 8th hole at Old Mac is a template design.

The large “Biarritz” green on the 8th hole at Old Mac is a template design.

The golf party began to pick up steam as we took off on Bandon Preserve to gamble for some push-ups. The match was up and down over the first twelve holes and when we arrived on the 13th and final hole the stakes were high. In one of my more spectacular moments, I rolled in an unlikely 35 foot birdie putt to send Evan and Captain Joe to the ground. Evan knocked out his 50 push-ups easily, but Joe struggled mightily.

The 9th hole at Bandon Preserve

The 9th hole at Bandon Preserve

Bandon Preserve rests in the foreground with Bandon Dunes beyond the creek.

Bandon Preserve rests in the foreground with Bandon Dunes beyond the creek.

The next day, the sun was shining on the original David McLay Kidd course at Bandon Dunes. Our group took full advantage of the perfect conditions with some high quality play. It was the penultimate round on The RGV Tour and the end was rapidly approaching.

The 16th hole at Bandon Dunes is a fan favorite and one of the best golf holes on the entire property.

The 16th hole at Bandon Dunes is a fan favorite and one of the best golf holes on the entire property.

The view across Bandon Dunes from Bandon Preserve

The view across Bandon Dunes from Bandon Preserve

The par 3 6th hole as the sun rises.

The par 3 6th hole as the sun rises.

RGV Tour staff caddy, AK, caddies hard.

RGV Tour staff caddy, AK, caddies hard.

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After the round at Bandon Dunes it was time to get down to business… the business of delivering a $20,000.00 check to charity. For as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to either give or receive one of those large fake checks and this was my moment to make that dream come true. Believe it or not, it only took one take to get this right. That stupid smile on my face afterwards makes me laugh every time I watch this.

Almost everything that a golfer could want is located on property at Bandon Dunes. However, our group was feeling adventurous and we headed out to the Arcade Tavern in downtown Bandon. They have pool tables, darts and a jukebox. The trick to the Arcade is that you have to get to the jukebox early and load it up with some classic selections. Like an amateur, I only put on 2 songs and went back to my game of pool. Just like that, the jukebox was hijacked and we ended up listening to death metal for 2 hours.

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Since Pacific Dunes was left out of the lineup, it decided to show off.

Since Pacific Dunes was left out of the lineup, it decided to show off.

Suddenly it was upon me, the very last round of golf on the RGV Tour. The setting for the final round was Bandon Trails and it was the 405th different golf course played over the past 365 days. The tour had visited 47 states, played golf with 793 people, and driven 35,576 miles to get to this point. It was raining and we did not care.

After this guy climbed off of my Callaway, I rolled in the very final birdie of the RGV Tour.

After this guy climbed off of my Callaway, I rolled in the very final birdie of the RGV Tour.

Included in that final round would be the very last attempt for me to make a hole in one on The RGV Tour. The RGV ace hunt only had four opportunities remaining. In my entire golfing career, I estimated that I have made somewhere around 11,000 attempts at the feat. On the RGV Tour alone, I have made around 2,700 attempts. That means I am 0 for 13,700.

Actuarial companies have placed the odds of the average golfer making a hole in one at 12,500 to 1. For the tour professional the odds are 2,500 to 1 and the low handicapper around 5,000 to 1. Statistically speaking I should have 2.74 aces.

For a brief moment, I thought fate might intervene on the par 3 17th at Bandon Trails. I can only imagine the level of hysteria that would have been achieved had this ball disappeared. I would have ripped my jacket off, high kicked everyone in the face, ran straight into the Pacific Ocean and died.

When finishing up a life changing adventure, it is natural to look back on where the journey began. In this case it was 365 days ago at Chambers Bay. Even though I am wearing the same jacket in both of these videos, I am decidedly a very different person beneath.

From patience to perseverance, the tour has changed me as a man and made me a better human being. The people that have joined me on my journey have reinvigorated my belief in the human spirit. The generosity that was displayed will never be forgotten. I would like to extend a huge and heartfelt thank you to the countless courses that welcomed the tour. To everyone that joined and followed along: Thank you for your golf spirit, you made The RGV Tour something truly special.

BONUS: EMERGENCY NINE!!

Just as the final putt had dropped, it was clear what needed to happen next. It was emergency nine time at Shorty’s!! Shorty’s is a nine hole David Mclay Kidd designed par 3 course and unfortunately, there were no emergency nine aces.

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After the emergency nine had wrapped up, I headed back to Seattle where it all began. It was time to go on Q it up Sports with Aaron Levine and bring the RGV Tour full circle. After the cameras stopped rolling, I headed out into the RGV to record the tour’s final podcast with Evan Johnsen. As snow fell onto Seattle that Sunday, the tour had finally come to an end.

BONUS BONUS CONTENT

The RGV Tour would like to leave you with this summary article on Golf.com.

Bay Area Showdown part 2

On the outward journey, I breezed through the San Francisco Bay Area. On the return trip, I had a chance to do some further investigation. That investigation started the moment I broke into Northern California at Morro Bay Golf Course. After my round at Morro Bay, I was getting ready to head north, when I saw the sun break through the clouds for the first time that day. I quickly threw up “Robert Trent Drones” and captured one of my favorite drone shots of the year.

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People often ask me for advice on courses to pair up with a trip down to Monterey. My response is either Pasatiempo or Cordevalle. Cordevalle is pictured below and you will want to keep scrolling for some of the views from Pasatiempo.

Cordevalle hosted the US Women’s Open in 2016.

Cordevalle hosted the US Women’s Open in 2016.

Up next on the tour’s agenda was an engagement that I had been looking forward to for quite some time. I was scheduled to meet up with local news legend Vern Glenn and play some golf at The Presidio. While living in San Francisco, The Presidio was one of my “go to” golf courses. I was very excited to return on the RGV Tour.

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The 4th hole at Presidio was the scene of another close attempt on the RGV Tour ace hunt.

The 4th hole at Presidio was the scene of another close attempt on the RGV Tour ace hunt.

The news piece with Vern was really fun to film and they actually mic’ed me up for that front nine. As many of you are aware, I have had zero hole in ones on the RGV Tour and zero hole in ones in my entire life. There was a moment on the par 3 4th hole that I thought I might end that ace-less streak for the KPIX cameras. As much as I tried to talk to my golfball, it would not listen and end up several feet short of the hole. The good news is that I did manage a bogey free 33 on that front nine under the intense KPIX-TV pressure.

Although I brought my A game, the real spotlight should have been on Vern that day. On the 6th hole he put his camera down and started golfing. He proceeded to put on a serious putting clinic. After rolling in 30 foot putts on holes 6 and 7, he canned a 50 footer on #9. Vern wasn’t able to hang around for the back nine… probably because that putter had burned a hole in his hands.

After the round, I had the pleasure of sharing a presentation with the members of the Presidio Golf & Concordia Club. This was the first time that I had attempted to compile some of my greatest hits from the past year. It was a true pleasure to share these stories with the Presidio and it’s members. I can’t say enough about the enthusiasm and generosity extended to The RGV Tour on its visit. Out of over 400 stops, this was easily one of my favorite visits.

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The Meadow Club is located north of San Francisco in Fairfax, CA and is Alister Mackenzie’s first course designed in America. For those not aware, Mackenzie would go on to design courses like Augusta National and Cypress Point. Somehow, the course manages to fly under the radar but it is a must play for any golf architecture enthusiast. The design reminds me of this quote from Mr. Mackenzie.

The chief object of every golf architect or greenkeeper worth his salt is to imitate the beauties of nature so closely as to make his work indistinguishable from nature itself.”
— Alister Mackenzie

My favorite course in the Bay Area is California Golf Club or Cal Club. Willie Locke and A. Vernon Macan designed the original routing which opened on May 26th, 1926.   Later, Alister MacKenzie would redesign the bunkering and at least two of the greens.   82 years later, Kyle Phillips would restore the golf course  to its "golden age" design.   Cal Club is one of the few courses in America that successfully utilizes fine fescue grass and almost always delivers firm and fast playing conditions. The course is so good that The RGV Tour played it twice.

The finishing hole at Cal Club

The finishing hole at Cal Club

Cal Club Coyote wants your snacks.

Cal Club Coyote wants your snacks.

Since the DNA of San Francisco coyotes matches those of the coyotes to the north of the city, It has been theorized that these coyotes came into the city by walking across the Golden Gate Bridge back in the 1990’s. It’s not quite the Planet of The Apes story that Hollywood created but these coyotes are here to stay.

The Mackenzie tour of Northern California continued at Pasatiempo Golf Club. Located in Santa Cruz, the course is one of the finest public options for golfers in the United States. Mackenzie claimed that this was his best layout and even had his American home along the 6th fairway.

The 16th hole at Pasatiempo is widely regarded as one of Mackenzie’s best par 4’s. It is “An Ideal hole,” according to Mackenzie.

The 16th hole at Pasatiempo is widely regarded as one of Mackenzie’s best par 4’s. It is “An Ideal hole,” according to Mackenzie.

The view from behind the par 3 18th at Pasatiempo.

The view from behind the par 3 18th at Pasatiempo.

The bunkering on the par 5 13th hole is as good as it gets.

The bunkering on the par 5 13th hole is as good as it gets.

It was early when I arrived in Livermore, CA for the tour stop at Poppy Ridge, early enough to catch that first light as it crested the nearby hills. The photograph below is my favorite drone shot from the entire RGV Tour.

There are 3 nine hole courses at Poppy Ridge golf course and it is home to the Northern California Golf Association. The course is an often forgotten about option for public golf in the San Francisco area but it is worth the drive.

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Next up was a date with Lake Merced in Daly City, CA. The course has recently played host to the LPGA’s Swinging Skirts Classic and openly welcomed The RGV Tour. Lake Merced earned the distinct honor as being one of the coziest parking lots that the Recreational Golf Vehicle has spent the night in.

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The Alister Mackenzie hits kept on coming the next day with a tee time at Green Hills Country Club. Terms like “hidden gem” and “under the radar” come to mind when playing Green Hills. Located in Milbrae, CA Green Hills gives golfers all of the greens and all of the hills that they can handle.

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Sleeper Pick alert: Orinda Country Club

One of the most common questions that I receive on The RGV Tour is “What are some of the golf courses that surprised you the most?” The list is a short one but Orinda Country Club is on it. Todd Eckenrode renovated the 1924 William Watson design in 2015 and left us with a tremendous variety of golf. Holes like “Mousetrap” and “Meteor” are not only unique but a lot of fun to play. I had the pleasure of playing with Brett Hochstein of Hochstein Design, who was one of the shapers on the renovation project. Insight into the revisioning of the golf holes and comments like “I am glad I moved that bunker” provided a unique point of view while playing the golf course.

The 10th hole at Orinda Country Club has one of the coziest greens that the RGV Tour has encountered.

The 10th hole at Orinda Country Club has one of the coziest greens that the RGV Tour has encountered.

The view from behind the 2nd hole at Orinda Country Club

The view from behind the 2nd hole at Orinda Country Club

The view from behind the 10th green at Orinda Country Club

The view from behind the 10th green at Orinda Country Club

San Jose Country Club was up next with Tommy Dodge. Not only has Mr Dodge started his own golf design company but he is also one heck of a golfer. I managed to hang with Tommy until the 18th hole when my par putt missed wide left. I blamed the missed putt on the distracting nature of the tree behind the 18th hole. The old oak beyond the green earned honors as a top 5 tree on tour.

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The 18th green at San Jose Country Club boasts one of the top 5 RGV Tour trees.

The 18th green at San Jose Country Club boasts one of the top 5 RGV Tour trees.

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There is no better way to finish up a San Francisco golf trip than with a visit to the Lake Course at The Olympic Club. Not only is The Olympic Club the oldest athletic club in the United States, but it has hosted the US Open 5 times. Perhaps more notably, it has hosted the RGV Tour twice. Even more notably, the RGV Tour has one of the most notorious halfway house foods of all time, the Burger Dog.

The preliminary list of my top 6 RGV Tour foods can be found below:

  1. Burger Dog - Olympic Club, CA (pictured)

  2. Scallop Roll - Seminole, FL

  3. Lobster BLT - Belgrade Lakes, ME

  4. Pulled Pork Tacos - Streamsong, FL

  5. Cheese Dog - Sunnehanna, PA

  6. Clam Chowder - Eastward Ho!, MA

The shadows started to get long on The Lake Course’s 11th hole.

The shadows started to get long on The Lake Course’s 11th hole.

The par 3 8th hole at Olympic Club

The par 3 8th hole at Olympic Club

The long par 3 3rd hole at Olympic Club

The long par 3 3rd hole at Olympic Club

As I left San Francisco, the realization came over me that my time on The RGV Tour was quickly coming to an end. The tour finale at Bandon Dunes was on the horizon and I only had one round left in California. That round was at The Links of Bodega Harbor and I was going to enjoy the journey while it lasted.

The LInks at Bodega Harbor is open to the public and is one of the most affordable golf courses on the Pacific coast. I walked the Robert Trent Jones design for a $30 twilight fee. The course has views of the ocean from every hole and there are 3 holes that play directly down by the coast.

The 16th hole at Bodega Harbor is a short par 4 that plays directly along the Pacific ocean.

The 16th hole at Bodega Harbor is a short par 4 that plays directly along the Pacific ocean.

The segment with Vern on KPIX had aired the night before and I ran into 5 different groups of people that recognized me from the news. Those little blips of golfers excited to greet the RGV Tour will always hold a special place in my heart.

After the round, the tour made it’s final journey up the coast and into Bandon Dunes.

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The view from above The Links at Bodega Harbor.

The view from above The Links at Bodega Harbor.

Return to California

After all of the “new” states had been explored, it was time to head back to where the journey started. It was time to return to California and head up the coast towards the finish line. Up first was a visit to Palm Springs for a Christmas celebration with my parents. As many of you know, my parent’s house burned down during the Camp Fire in Northern California. The good news is that they are safe and they have an undeniable persistence in the face of tragedy. This is the second time that their house has burned down. I wasn’t alive for the original tragedy, but it was great to see them in Palm Springs after the second one.

It’s just stuff.
— Carol Koenig

Since The RGV Tour does not give any of it’s employees holiday vacation, we were forced to work right through Christmas. Nobody really complained though and most employees were very happy to have the extra work. When The Hideaway is your office, nobody minds. Even Santa had some time to get in on the action.

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After the holiday festivities, came one of my favorite days on the RGV Tour. It was a day of 54 holes in late December at PGA West. When we started out the day, 36 was on the ambitious side. Only the golf gods could have known that we would finish up #54 in total darkness.

One of the most unique animal experiences would also occur at PGA West. On the back nine of the Palmer Private course, a group of 30 Big Horn Sheep spilled down the mountain side and out onto the 15th green. It was an incredibly cool experience to get up close to such spectacular animals. I thought I was going to get charged a couple of times but it turns out they were just trying to speed up play.

The resort at PGA West has 6 different golf courses, 3 private and 3 public options. The Stadium Course is public and the most well known of the bunch as it plays host to the PGA Tour’s Desert Classic. The other 2 public options are the Norman and the Nicklaus Tournament Course. For the RGV Tour’s 54, we took on the Weiskopf Private, The Palmer Private, and the Nicklaus Private Courses.

A male Big Horn Sheep poses hard for me on the Palmer Private course at PGA West

A male Big Horn Sheep poses hard for me on the Palmer Private course at PGA West

The Nicklaus private course was the 2nd round of the day

The Nicklaus private course was the 2nd round of the day

A Palm Springs sunset over the Weiskopf Private Course

A Palm Springs sunset over the Weiskopf Private Course

The 17th hole “Alcatraz” at PGA West

The 17th hole “Alcatraz” at PGA West

Next up on The RGV Tour agenda was a visit to Los Angeles and a meeting up with RGV Tour veterans Ben and Evan. I scooped up my co-pilots at Rancho Park and we got things rolling with some municipal golf and some In N Out Burger.

My sights had been set on Sherwood Country Club for quite some time and we finally had a tee time on the books. This was going to be good. The story at Sherwood starts on the 7th hole after my tee shot had come to rest on the par 3 6th hole. As Ben was hitting his tee shot after mine, my ball began to move. It was coming back down the slope and heading right towards the hole. This was it! The ace was going to happen in dramatic and unusual fashion. False. It was going to burn the edge and come to rest within a foot. Whatever.

The scene of the crime on the 6th hole.

The scene of the crime on the 6th hole.

My favorite hole on the property was the par 3 8th hole.

My favorite hole on the property was the par 3 8th hole.

Next up was a day of 27 holes that started at Terranea Golf Links and ended up going down in golf history. On the 7th hole of the par 3 course, Evan Johnsen entered the RGV Tour record book with the very first hole in one on the RGV tour. We did not see the ball go in the hole from the tee box, but when we looked into the cup and realized we had an ace on our hands, we partied like it was 1999 and the ball had just dropped on the year 2000.

After nearly 5,000 attempts by RGV Tour players, someone had finally found the bottom of the cup on a par 3. The even better news is that it was our good friend Evan Johnsen, Program Director at The First Tee of Greater Seattle. Evan spends his days with kids and helps them to make better decisions in life and golf. We have ourselves a serious case of golf karma. Congratulations Evan!

Side note: Ben would make a par 3 on the hole, and I would roll in a short birdie putt. That is a 1,2,3 on the scorecard.

The party was still going when we reached the 8th tee box. Evan teed one up and pounded it 60 yards right and into the swamp. “Was that your ace ball?” I questioned. “Oh crap,” Evan responded. I quickly exclaimed, “That thing is worth $12 million, we gotta find that ball.” Fortunately, eagle eye Ben was in our group and somehow found the dang thing under 7 layers of grass, brush, and crab grass. No word yet on when Evan is gonna put that thing on E-Bay and cash in.

Evan Johnsen with the very first Hole in One on the RGV Tour.

Evan Johnsen with the very first Hole in One on the RGV Tour.

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The Links at Terranea is one of the best 9 hole courses in the USA.

The Links at Terranea is one of the best 9 hole courses in the USA.

For the afternoon round, we took in the scenes of Rancho Palos Verdes for a walk on the 1924 George C Thomas and William Bell design. This duo is also responsible for clubs like Riviera CC, Bel Air CC, Los Angeles CC North and the course at Ojai Valley Inn. After creating golf history in the morning it was appropriate that we walked on some golf history that afternoon.

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The downhill 4th hole at Palos Verdes Golf Club.

The downhill 4th hole at Palos Verdes Golf Club.

Hidden Valley Golf Club in Norco, CA was up next. After spending the night by the maintenance shed, we got up early and tackled the hilly terrain. The sad news is that I only came out with one ranch related tweet at Hidden Valley Golf Club

Evan contemplates life after his hole in one. What else is there left to accomplish?

Evan contemplates life after his hole in one. What else is there left to accomplish?

There are lots of great views and elevation changes at Hidden Valley.

There are lots of great views and elevation changes at Hidden Valley.

That afternoon, the RGV Tour headed out to Oak Quarry in Riverside for the final round of 2018. The wind was furious on the final golfing day of the year. After Ben Garrett drove his tee ball 405 yards on the 2nd hole, we had another RGV Tour record on our hands. Now Ben can hit it far, but 405 yards is ridiculous.

The golf course at Oak Quarry also features several of the most outstanding and unique golf holes in the Los Angeles area. The action really picks up on the short par 4, 4th hole and plays around the quarry on holes 5 and 6. Your golf senses will then go into overdrive on Oak Quarry’s signature 14th hole. It’s a par 3 that plays down into the heart of the quarry providing one of the most stunning golf views in Southern California.

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As for the final hole of 2018, I ran a Twitter poll to check the pulse of fan confidence. It turns out that 31% of you believed that I was going to make a “smooth 7” to cap off the golf year. The good news: I ended up with a nice little par. and made it into bed before 11pm.

The par 4 6th hole at Oak Quarry.

The par 4 6th hole at Oak Quarry.

The short 4th at Oak Quarry is drivable when it plays downwind.

The short 4th at Oak Quarry is drivable when it plays downwind.

The next morning we headed out to Mountain Meadows to get our golf and Phat Scoot on. For those not aware, the RGV has been outfitted with a state of the art Phat Scooter on the rear of the vehicle. The idea is simple, it is a scooter for the golf course. These scoots can get up to 20 mph and have different settings dependent on the terrain. Here we see Evan Johnsen in the “Cool AF” setting.

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After the round, we headed out to the Rose Bowl for some football action. It was the Washington Huskies vs the Ohio State Buckeyes and most of the game was a snooze until the Huskies made a run in the fourth quarter only to come up short in the end.

We had nabbed some premium RV parking at the Rose Bowl and decided to stay overnight at our sweet parking accommodations. That evening we played a pretty intense game of poker with those golf ball marker poker chip things. In between hands, it was fun to discuss the different courses on the poker chips that had been visited on the tour.

Rose Bowl selfie time with Ben and Evan.

Rose Bowl selfie time with Ben and Evan.

Koenig was the big winner in the Rose Bowl poker showdown.

Koenig was the big winner in the Rose Bowl poker showdown.

The next day, the tour paid a visit to Los Angeles Country Club. There are no pictures allowed at LACC, so you are just gonna have to wait until 2023 when the US Open visits. LACC has two courses and is easily in the running for best 36 hole club in the country.

The good news is that they do allow photos at Wilshire Country Club down the road. With an excellent restoration from Kyle Phillips in 2010, Wilshire’s golf holes focus on angles of play with an emphasis on the ground game. In 2018, the LPGA has recently rewarded the club’s efforts with a 3 year deal with the HUGEL-JTBC Open. The RGV Tour rewarded Wilshire as well with a visit in early January of 2019.

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The Hollywood sign is visible from Wilshire’s 9th hole.

The Hollywood sign is visible from Wilshire’s 9th hole.

Mmmm good bunkering at Wilshire.

Mmmm good bunkering at Wilshire.

With a flight out of town looming for Ben & Evan, we had time for one final tour stop at Rolling Hills Country Club. The club was formed in 1965, but for those familiar with the original design, you wouldn’t recognize the course today. David McLay Kidd has completely revisioned the golf course. Kidd and his team moved 6 million cubic yards of dirt to completely reshape the design. In football terms, that is 6 Rosebowls full of dirt. The results are excellent and you would never guess that such a herculean earth moving effort had taken place.

Before heading to the airport, our trio sat down to record a hot fire podcast about Evan’s historic ace and our wanderings around the LA golf scene.

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BONUS BLOG ACTION: Callaway launch

The fine folks over at Callaway Golf launched an entire new line of products in January of 2019. The new ERC golf ball, new Apex irons, and the new Epic Flash Driver were all on display for us to try out during the launch event. I launched a couple of Apex irons early and fell in love immediately.

On the far left you can see Mr  holein1trickshots  himself ogling my tour quality trajectory.

On the far left you can see Mr holein1trickshots himself ogling my tour quality trajectory.

Epic for Days.

Epic for Days.

Phil Mickelson receives the star treatment from Michelle Wie, Kira Kazantsev, Amanda Balionis and Ashley Mayo.

Phil Mickelson receives the star treatment from Michelle Wie, Kira Kazantsev, Amanda Balionis and Ashley Mayo.

The Callaway launch event was packed with influencer and celebrity types. Kira was Ms America in 2015. Ashley Mayo is the reigning Mrs Golf America, Balionis is campaigning for Ms America in 2019 and Michelle Wie has won the US Open.

There was even a Colton Underwood siting. After spending a year on the road and away from televisions, people had to inform me that he was ABC’s current “Bachelor.” Bob Menery was also there getting zoinked.

The event was capped off with a team game to see who could drive more golfballs into each other’s faces. It was Callaway’s AJ Voelpel and his homies VS Hashtag Chad and his army. In a twist of fate, AJ drove two balls through his own face, cementing the victory for Chad.

AJ’s self inflicted eyebrow piercing was the shot that sealed it.

AJ’s self inflicted eyebrow piercing was the shot that sealed it.

Michelle Wie and Chris Harrison sit down to discuss internet dating amongst other things.

Michelle Wie and Chris Harrison sit down to discuss internet dating amongst other things.

BONUS BONUS Blog action: Rustic Canyon with Erik Anders Lang and Torrey Pines with Tisha Alyn.

I had heard rumors about a mysterious man in LA known as Erik Landers Lang. They had told me that he was a film maker and a golf nut. There were even whispers that he was referred to as the coolest man in golf. Then they told me that he had a dog named Snowball. I immediately booked a tee time and a podcast with Snowball.

Since the RGV Tour played Torrey Pines’ South course on the outward journey, we needed to hit the North course before we skipped out of Southern California. You know, to round things out. Joining us for the adventure was Tisha Alyn.

We teed off way too late to get the round in and as we made the turn the sun began to set. That’s when all of the other golfers called it quits. Tisha and I did not give up. Tish made four birdies in a row and I chipped in on the 18th hole for a stunning finish in the darkness. Get the full scoop on episode 33 of the podcast.

The sun sets on Torrey Pines and the RGV Tour’s time in Southern California.

The sun sets on Torrey Pines and the RGV Tour’s time in Southern California.

Casa De Campo

As I sit down to type this, I am reminded of the famous Confucius proverb, “The best vacation from your year long golf vacation is another golf vacation.” With the rigors of the road wearing on my body and mind, I decided to listen to the Chinese philosopher. It was time to recharge. The destination for the golf recharge was the Dominican Republic and Casa De Campo.

Casa De Campo is not just a golf resort, it is a huge sprawling property that expands some 7,000 acres a 1.5 hour drive from the country’s capitol of Santo Domingo. The resort is a small thriving village featuring private homes as well as luxury accommodations for hotel guests. 7000 acres! So much room for adventure and activities!

Just imagine all of the room for activities!!

Just imagine all of the room for activities!!

A sampling of the activities includes… Dining at one of the seven amazing restaurants, ogling yachts at the marina, getting our polo on at the equestrian center, shooting clay pigeons at the shooting course, or golf modeling on one of the three private white sand beaches. Most importantly, there are four Pete Dye golf courses at Casa De Campo.

Upon checking into the resort each guest is issued their own personal golf cart to help them navigate the property. This turned out to be one of my favorite parts of the trip. Not all golf carts are created equal and I was given some sort of super cart that exceeded speeds of what felt like 40 mph.

The first thing I did in that cart was speed on over to The Links course for our first round of the trip. The Links course will test your green side manner and with a renovation in 2012, the course holds it’s own with the other three golf courses on the resort. It is fun, fair, and served as a great opening round for our time in The Caribbean.

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The next course on the agenda was the world famous Teeth of The Dog or just plain “Teeth” if you want to be one of the cool kids. Since the 1960’s “Teeth” has consistently found it’s way onto just about every Top 100 in the world list. So with the sun setting on day one, I decided to get a sneak peak of the golf course. I would not be disappointed. This golf course is eye candy at it’s finest.

The course routing features 7 golf holes directly on the water with the seaside action kicking off on #5. The fifth hole was so breathtaking that when I first saw it, I knew immediately that I wanted to buried on the beach fronting the green. I could hang out on this beach for eternity.

The beach in front of the 5th hole receives a 11/10 beach rating from pjkoenig.com.

The beach in front of the 5th hole receives a 11/10 beach rating from pjkoenig.com.

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The 2nd hole at Teeth of the Dog.

The 2nd hole at Teeth of the Dog.

Even though the seaside holes get all of the attention, I was particularly fond of the 2nd hole. If the golfer can hug the rock and waste area down the left hand side, they will be rewarded with a fine angle into this green. The hole oozes Pete Dye and starts off the round in style.

One of my other favorite holes on “Teeth” was not actually part of the golf course. A rock outcropping just off of the 15th green provides the perfect setting for a dangerous island green. This dramatic hole was created just for fun and plays about 120 yards. Good luck getting your golf ball to land softly on this rocky putting surface.

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The difficult 15B at Teeth of the Dog.

The difficult 15B at Teeth of the Dog.

Hole #4 takes you right out to the ocean.

Hole #4 takes you right out to the ocean.

Hole #5 from above.

Hole #5 from above.

Since Teeth of The Dog has some serious bite, most of us are going to need some preparation to execute those golf shots. Fortunately, Casa De Campo has one of the best golf teachers in the world on hand. Eric Lillibridge is the Director of Instruction at the Jim McLean Golf School for the resort and we took some time to groove our swings on the Trackman and get some guidance from Eric. I usually shy away from golf instruction, but Eric is an expert at understanding the golf swing and relating his suggestions to golfers in an easy to understand and practical manner.

The view from inside the teaching bay. Eric is on the far right getting ready to dispense some serious golf knowledge.

The view from inside the teaching bay. Eric is on the far right getting ready to dispense some serious golf knowledge.

The next course on the agenda was another dramatic Pete Dye creation called Dye Fore. Dye Fore? More like fore right!! Golf balls were sailing off line on a perfect day under the pleasant Dominican sun. Our foursome was grinding hard on 18 of the 27 holes. With cliffside views of the Chavon River, the Marina, and the Dominican mountains, the course provides great views as well as great golf.

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The par 3 3rd hole at Dye Fore.

The par 3 3rd hole at Dye Fore.

A tense match comes to a close on the mighty 18th.

A tense match comes to a close on the mighty 18th.

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With three rounds under our belt, it was time to blow some stuff up and we decided to head on down to the shooting gallery. I had never fired a shotgun before and it was a fun experience. No one was injured and I am pretty sure that my “4 in a row” was a resort record. Several other members of our group went to the beach and some got a massage. Options abound for the Casa De Campo guest!

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While the RGV Tour is not in the business of critiquing and evaluating food options, it needs to be mentioned that the dining experiences at Casa De Campo are amazing. You just hop in your golf cart and head on down to that evening’s selected dining experience. We dined at the Marina, the Beach Club, and even a fine Italian restaurant in a place called Altos De Chavon. Altos De Chavon is a 16th century replica Mediterranean village. Yes, there is a replica village inside Casa De Campo. The place is awesome. For several of the meals we even had musical accompaniment as we began our dessert courses.

The next day we were treated to a visit on the resort’s only private course, La Romana Country Club. The highlight of the round came when we forced our caddie to play the par 3 16th with us. Like a true caddie boss, he made a birdie 2 without breaking a sweat. Our man quickly retired from the action and we finished under a fantastic Dominican sunset.

Aspring Golf model Tim Reilly attempts to find the back door on the par 4 14th at La Romana Country Club.

Aspring Golf model Tim Reilly attempts to find the back door on the par 4 14th at La Romana Country Club.

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No matter when you end up leaving Casa De Campo you will end up leaving too soon. The resort really does feel like your own private city and I was sad to see the sun set on our final day in the Dominican Republic. The drone footage below should give you an idea of how good this place is. The golf is just part of the experience at Casa De Campo!

For more information on Casa de Campo Resort & Villas please call 800.877.3643, email golf@ccampo.com.do or visit: www.casadecampo.com.do/. Tell ‘em that Large Marge sent ya! You won’t receive any special discounts, but it’s a cool thing to say.

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From Scottsdale to Las Vegas

Things got started off right at Sliverleaf Golf Club in Scottsdale.

Things got started off right at Sliverleaf Golf Club in Scottsdale.

Out here on the RGV Tour, you need to get used to rubbing shoulders with big time stars. One of the places that I like to hang out with legends of the game is at Silverleaf in Scottsdale. It is important to remember that when Steve Elkington is playing in the group behind yours, you don’t want to make a scene. Yelling “YOOO ELKDOG!” from the next fairway over is entirely inappropriate. Also, keep in mind that when dining next to Steve, it is frowned upon to ask for an autograph on your bare chest at the dinner table. Having him sign your scorecard because you just shot 85 won’t get you anywhere either.

After keeping things cool at Silverleaf, it was time to slide on over to Dinosaur Mountain. I had never heard of the course before Mark Hurley invited me to play, but I will golf anything having to do with Dinosaurs. It turns out that Dinosaur Mountain is a pretty good little course even though we saw no Stegosauruses or Triceratops.

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Next up was an engagement at Wild Fire with Jeff Gibson. Jeff has a weekly skins game with a rowdy bunch of guys and we had Woody and Eric join the golf party in our group. With a dozen players firing at flags all day, eagles needed to be made. After missing a short eagle putt on #9, I had the taste of eagle blood on my tongue. I would quench my eagle thirst on #11 and cover my greens fee for the day. Afterwards, Jeff and his wife took me out for some pizza at Greyhawk and invited the RGV Tour post up in front of their house for the evening. The RGV Tour runs into some of the most generous and inviting golfers in the country!

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My friend, Chelsea Pezzola, is a Scottsdale resident and she had made her initial appearance on The RGV Tour back in the month of March. Highlights included the very first speed golf round on the RGV Tour podcast and a ‘Club RGV’ dance party. Now, the tour allows for very few two-time tour players, but based on the strength of her initial showing, I was willing to make an exception for Miss Chelsea P. This time the return appearance would be made at one of the Arizona’s best golf courses, Estancia.

No matter the outcome, Chelsea smiles like a model after every golf shot. She bladed this one 75 yards into the middle of the desert.

No matter the outcome, Chelsea smiles like a model after every golf shot. She bladed this one 75 yards into the middle of the desert.

Here we have the 11th hole at Estancia, a standout par 3. Also shown here is RGV Tour standout, Mr Forgan.

Here we have the 11th hole at Estancia, a standout par 3. Also shown here is RGV Tour standout, Mr Forgan.

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Pezzola’s caddie was serious about getting the reads. I was serious about getting pictures of the reads. It is hard to tell if Pezzola is serious about anything.

Pezzola’s caddie was serious about getting the reads. I was serious about getting pictures of the reads. It is hard to tell if Pezzola is serious about anything.

New friends.

New friends.

Next up on The RGV Tour we had our very first Sports Illustrated Swimsuit model. When I had originally created the tour, most people believed that we would have lines of SI swimsuit models waiting outside the door in every city. However, Paige Spiranac was the first swimsuit model to actually step foot into the RGV. In the photo below, you will notice that swimsuit models do not actually golf in their swimsuits all of the time. You will have to head on over here for that type of stuff.

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The podcast with Paige was a fun one to do and I would highly recommend giving it a listen. The conversation we had reminded me of the last time Paige and I played golf back in 2015. The highlight of that event was a model off held in the 18th fairway of Pebble Beach. Naturally, I went back to tally the votes over the past 3 years. What I found was that I had lost the model off 1,023 votes to 11. Ridiculous.

Since my modeling chops have improved drastically over the past 3 years, a rematch was in order. This time the story would be much different. The official vote took place on my Instagram Story and I would win 55% of the votes with a final tally of 741 to 609. Paige also held a vote on her own Instagram Story, but since the 1.3 million votes she received there only served as a tie breaker, they will not be counted. Better luck next time, Paige.

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Next up on the tour, we had Randall Smalley from Golf As Religion joining Chelsea Pezzola and I at Mesa Country Club. The club is a traditional gem, Randall is a gem of a golf partner and Chelsea P is gem of a golf babe. We easily had a gem of a time. All precious stones aside, MCC is a serious fun place to play.

The 7th hole at Mesa Country Club.

The 7th hole at Mesa Country Club.

The sun sets over TPC Scottsdale’s Champions course.

The sun sets over TPC Scottsdale’s Champions course.

After one final spirited round at TPC Scottsdale’s Champions course, it was time to head on out of town for some Las Vegas action. For those that make the weary drive from Phoenix to Sin City, there is one only damn stop that needs to be made… The damn Hoover Dam stop.

Once I arrived in Las Vegas, I headed straight on over to Las Vegas Country Club. LVCC has a great classic feel to it. Back in 1967, Dean Martin and his friends played the club on a daily basis. Las Vegas Country Club’s first head professional, Arthur Nightingale, said he should have called them, "the Awesome Sixsome.” From entertainment legends to mobsters, the course has some serious history. In 1983, the club hosted The Panasonic Las Vegas International and the first ever $1 million purse in PGA history. In 2018 it hosted the RGV Tour.

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One of the best options for public golf in Las Vegas is Bali Hai Golf Club.

One of the best options for public golf in Las Vegas is Bali Hai Golf Club.

It won’t take you long to realize why they call it Reflection Bay when arriving at the next golf course on the schedule. Reflection Bay is a fun Nickluas design that has some great golf holes right along the water.

My golf game was on that morning and I stood in the fairway of 18 with a chance to break 70. However, I did have to hole out my wedge from 120. As my golf shot bounced right in front of the hole only five feet away, there was a moment where I though I might actually pull of the feat. Moments later, it was clear that I would still need a tap in for my 70… Just 1 shot shy of greatness and equaling my tour best round of 69..

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Strong jungle vibes at Reflection Bay

Strong jungle vibes at Reflection Bay

The aptly named Reflection Bay

The aptly named Reflection Bay

The 2nd hole at Dragonridge Country Club

The 2nd hole at Dragonridge Country Club

Even though Wolf Creek isn’t technically in the Las Vegas area, I am including it here because it should be included on any golf trip to the Vegas area. The course is only about an hour or so drive from the strip and nobody has ever complained about indulging in the Wolf Creek experience. Just get in your rental car and go.

The course is not going to hold a candle to the Winged Foot’s of the world but it will rival the experience at your local Six Flags amusement park. From the very first hole, you are in for a golf roller coaster fun ride. Just make sure to register your expectations accordingly.

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Another one of my favorite’s in the Las Vegas area is Coyote Springs. The course is a about an hour from Las Vegas and is out there all by itself. A large scale development is in the works for the property, but right now it’s nothing but golf. A perfect time to see it before the houses ruin the golf vibes.

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With just one day left in Las Vegas, it was time to finish things up right with a day of 36 at Paiute Golf Club. The only problem… they have 54 golf holes at Paiute and we were gonna have to leave one out. We decided to play the Sun and the Snow courses and leave the Wolf course feeling jealous. All courses are designed by the legendary Pete Dye and are some of the best when it comes to public golf in the Las Vegas area.

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The view from behind the 18th at the Sun Course.

The view from behind the 18th at the Sun Course.

The scenic par 3 16th an the Snow Course.

The scenic par 3 16th an the Snow Course.

Escaping The snow

As I rolled into Colorado, the weather was still good and I had a chance to play golf on a bright and sunny afternoon. The first course on the Colorado agenda was Redlands Mesa Golf Club in Grand Junction. Jim Engh always delivers a fun and interesting golf course and this one is no different. Set up against the edge of Colorado National Monument, the course not only has vistas and views, but vistas of views. If you got the White Men Can’t Jump reference, give yourself 15 bonus points. Make it 25 points. This is a very obscure reference.

The 13th hole is a gettable par 5. I would lip out for eagle and threaten to throw myself into the pond.

The 13th hole is a gettable par 5. I would lip out for eagle and threaten to throw myself into the pond.

The view on the 11th tee at Redlands Mesa.

The view on the 11th tee at Redlands Mesa.

The 4th hole at Redlands Mesa is a short par 4.

The 4th hole at Redlands Mesa is a short par 4.

The par 3 12th hole at Redlands Mesa.

The par 3 12th hole at Redlands Mesa.

After the round at Mesa Redlands concluded, I headed back east to meet up with some RGV Tour hopefuls in Denver. As the journey from Grand Junction to Denver unfolded so did the snow. Was the end of my good weather luck near? I would have to wait and find out.

The good news is that I was getting out of town for a friend’s wedding in Austin, Texas. Would the snow remain when I returned? Who cares, I had some Texas heat to tend to. On a wild wedding weekend, we had time for 3 rounds of golf at Barton Creek Country Club, Jimmy Clay Golf Course, and Wolfdancer Golf Club.

The 8th hole at Barton Creek Country Club. A near ace miss here.

The 8th hole at Barton Creek Country Club. A near ace miss here.

The 11th at Barton Creek Country Club

The 11th at Barton Creek Country Club

The pre wedding golf-party party.

The pre wedding golf-party party.

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On the 7th hole at Wolfdancer golf club, I hit my tee ball deep into the woods. And as I dropped a ball on the edge of the hazard to play my 3rd shot into the hole, my playing competitor, Joe says “That’s a pretty generous drop right there.” Slightly annoyed, I responded with a “Where would you like me to drop it, 10 yards back there? 15?” Joe responds, “Eh, there is fine. Just saying that’s a pretty generous drop.”

A classic Joe move. Right now, he’s 2 down, a little pissed about it, and he’s trying to get in my head with this crap. I detect this ploy but I am still irked by Joe’s move to throw me off my game. I turn to my playing partner, Joey The Cat and say, “I am going to hole this Fu$$ing shot, just to really piss off Joe.”

You know what happened next? I hit this high floater from 110 that bounced off the front of the green and trickled right into the hole for a birdie 3. Joey The Cat and I celebrated in glorious fashion as Joe begrudgingly smiled from the middle of the fairway. Instead of looking to get back to 1 down, Joe had suddenly found himself 3 down. It was a hole that he would never dig himself out of.

Joey The Cat dons a cat sweatshirt as he golfs his ball.

Joey The Cat dons a cat sweatshirt as he golfs his ball.

As for the wedding, it was easily the wedding of the century. I unveiled some serious dance moves at the reception and we all basked in the glory of true love. I even managed a couple of high kicks.

When I returned to Colorado, I was greeted with a snow storm. I managed to hang around for a day to have some fun with Kenzie O’Connell and even meet a new golf friend. Elizabeth Diane Carpenter was game for some Top Golf in Denver. In the first ever Snowdown Showdown, Elizabeth suffered a tough loss.

With the area snowed in and the temps approaching twenty degrees, it looked grim that the RGV Tour would make it to Nebraska and achieve the tour’s original goal of 48 states. The official excuse for stopping at 47 states: “My lines in the RGV could freeze and I could die.” I had pushed my luck with the Danger States and it was time to head south. New Mexico was 5 hours away and I headed out for a day on the open road. When the RGV arrived in New Mexico, I was pleasantly greeted by Black Mesa Golf Club.

There are many good things going on at Black Mesa Golf Club. What will certainly catch your attention first is the location and surrounding terrain of the golf course. It feels very much like the setting for the film “The Hills Have Eyes.” Being a big fan of horror films, I was excited to have my own adventure. The video below was so much fun to make and I am sure that Tarantino will be knocking down my door with offers shortly.

The 11th hole is a strikingly cool par 3.

The 11th hole is a strikingly cool par 3.

The view from above the back nine at Black Mesa.

The view from above the back nine at Black Mesa.

The 7th hole at Black Mesa is a fun short par 4. Just look at that green.

The 7th hole at Black Mesa is a fun short par 4. Just look at that green.

With New Mexico explored mostly on the outward trip, the tour headed quickly back into Arizona. I had not gotten a chance to fully experience Sedona 7 months ago and it was time to take on Seven Canyons. While the golf course is of high quality, the surrounding mountains and rock formations make this course one of the most visually stunning courses in the entire United States. The course is a Tom Weiskopf design and it was of my favorites in recent months.

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There are quite a few great golf courses just north of Phoenix and unfortunately those in the Flagstaff area were already closed for the season. The good news is that a course called The Rim in Payson, AZ was still open and ready for an RGV Tour stop. The Rim Golf Club is another Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish design. The more Weiskopf courses I play, the more I enjoy his architecture.

The 13th green is framed by some serious rocks.

The 13th green is framed by some serious rocks.

The 2nd hole at The Rim is a tough and beautiful challenge.

The 2nd hole at The Rim is a tough and beautiful challenge.

With the snow safely in my rear view mirror, it was time to head back into one of golf’s most popular winter destinations… Scottsdale, Arizona. Keep it tuned to the RGV Tour Golf Blog, we have got all sorts of hot desert golf action coming up.

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 unusually 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 visited in the state of Maine was 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 back nine at Sugarloaf starts off with quite a view on this drive-able par 4.

The back nine at Sugarloaf starts off with quite a view on this drive-able par 4.

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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.