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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
End of Bonus Golf Content
See, that wasn't so bad.
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.
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!
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.