THE GOG BLOG SPEAKS OUT-2014’S BEST ROUNDS

DSC03636 Bg dome pic 2 DS New_GRAA_Logo DS DSC01763 Links & Tee's dome DS   THE DOMES ARE OPEN EARLY TODAY, BUT CLOSING EARLY AS WELL. Call the Buffalo Grove Golf & Sports Center at (847)-459-2321 or Links & Tee’s in Addison at (630)-233-7275 Ext 4 for hours today. Full hours tomorrow. Happy New Year.

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BY: RORY SPEARS, EDITOR AND SR. WRITER

Where has 2014 gone, it seems like it wasn’t that long ago Bubba Watson was winning his second Masters. The Back-to-Back U.S.Opens were on at Pinehurst, then Rory McIlroy went on his roll winning two straight majors.

The Fed Ex Cup Playoffs and the Ryder Cup came and went, then the silly season started. of course these days you could call the wrap around season a silly season as well. The beautiful Kapalua Plantation Course that doesn’t get the respect it deserves, is next on the tee. Here’s to a good week for good friend and Director of Golf at Kapalua Mike Jones and crew. The 2015 PGA Tour season really does start this next week.

DSC02716 Merion 3rd hole DS

The Par 3, 3rd hole at Merion.

As for me I’m up for watching golf from the Hawaiian islands for a few weeks. Having made the trip to the islands 8 times, there is plenty of great golf to be found there. I would recommend Hawaii before I would travel south of the border.

Hopefully you are planning your golf trip or trips for 2015 already, there are so many good places to go.

With everyone doing their Top 10 list or so from 2014 to close out the year, I thought I would do my 25 favorite rounds from 2014. No not by score, but just the enjoyment of playing where I did. Yes some are private clubs and some are not, but all in all they are great golf. I am just hoping that golf is just as much fun in 2015 as it was in 2014.

No.1 was my return to Merion outside Philadelphia. No I did not play as well as I did in my first visit in 2009, but Merion is still a special place and a really neat golf course. It’s no wonder the USGA did all it could to have the U.S. Open back there again in 2013. It wasn’t fun being over run by bugs (nats) there this time around, it seems as if parts of the Philly area had that issue this summer. But a day on Merion with club historian and good friend John Capers makes for a special round.

No.2 was a first time visit to Shinnecock Hills in Southhampton on Long Island. The SHGC will host yet another U.S. Open in 2018, the new tee’s are already in place.

DSC03283 Shinnecock 16 par 5 DS

The Par 5, 16th hole at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club.

Shinnecock is one of those special places you just can’t help but enjoy. The entire club just reeks of tradition and history, it’s no wonder that some newer prairie fescue design type courses all try to capture the look of Shinnecock.

The course is not right on the water, but it’s not far away from two different directions. Tree’s are few and the wind will blow quite frequently, then there are greens than can leave you scratching your head after a missed putt. Ah, the joy of Shinnecock, I’m looking forward to a rematch down the road some day.

No.3 Chicago Golf Club in Wheaton. It had been 9 years since my last round there and it was good to return, great company and great weather made for a special day.

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Holes 1 (R) and 9 (L) at Friars Head GC in Riverhead NY.

No.4 Friarshead Golf Club in Riverhead NY. just up the road from the big name courses in Southampton.

Friarshead is a Crenshaw and Coore design that is a mix between Pinehurst No.2 and Streamsong Red. There are one set of tee markers on every hole, not five. Everyone pretty much plays from the same tee’s regardless of handicap, age or ability. No yardage markers on the course or on the card, trust your caddie and have fun, and I sure did. One of the great rounds of the year. One of the great short walks in golf, between holes 15 and 16 on a walkaway up and over a beach. Pretty neat.

Rory on 18 Sebonack DS

Letting it rip on the 18th hole at Sebonack, a nice par was made to close out the round.

No.5 Sebonack on Long Island, this Tom Doak and Jack Nicklaus design has a few greens that will leave your jaw dropping down to your ankles. But you can’t beat the rest of the golf course, the clubhouse or it’s cottages.

This is one of those courses that the walk is so good, you won’t really care what you score is. The U.S. Women’s Open was played here already, and I’m sure the USGA will return with yet another championship at some point.

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Can’t beat a course with an elevator for the walkers to the next tee box. From 17 green to 18 tee box.

No.6 the Pittsburgh Field Club, after a redo from architect Keith Foster, the PFC is now shoulder to shoulder with it’s more famous neighbor Fox Chapel Country Club that’s about a mile and half around the corner.

It’s hard to beat a golf course that gives it’s walking golfers an elevator to ride in, from the 17th green to the 18th tee box. The hill is pretty steep so the elevator is a cool addition. Look for more on the PFC in an addition of the Gog Blog’s Great Golf on a Cold Day, coming soon.

DSC02122 Kiawah 17 DS

Kiawah Island the Ocean Course by Pete Dye

No.7 The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Resort.

It’s always fun to arrive at one of the countries top golf courses, and see that the mercury has plunged down to 42 degrees. Then it dropped to 39 degrees by the time 18 holes had been played.

When the wind is whipping off the ocean it add’s to the day. Special thanks to caddie Mike Warren who had me tee off the backside that day, and so we never encountered another group in the 3 hours and 5 minutes it took me to play. Fun course, fun round and a great test of golf.

No.8 The Philadelphia Cricket Club, Wissahickon Course. The trip this summer was rematch for me on this old classic A.W. Tillinghast Course. Philly Cricket is the country’s oldest country club. There was a country club for some 42 years before they had a golf course. The recent Keith Foster renovation has put this course back on the map, I’ll have more in an upcoming GOG-GG on a Cold Day segment.

No.9 Saucon Valley, the Old Course. The old course at Saucon Valley was the lead course for this years USGA Mid-Amateur. It’s one of three courses the club has, and the 54 holes are great tracks. Someday I’m looking forward to seeing the other two courses I didn’t play.

DSC03171 Fox Chapel 12th hole par 3 Short DS

Fox Chapel’s par 3 called “Short” 140 from the tips.

No.10 Fox Chapel, or fun in the fog as it was for me that day. This is an old Seth Raynor classic that had been hosting the Sr. Players Championship.

I really enjoy the old courses, because you really don’t see architecture like this anymore. Well if you have heard of island greens, this was an island green even before there was island greens. Sand helped from the island, long before water came in during the 1970’s.

One of the other great par 3’s on the golf course, is the 17th hole with a Biarritz style green ( if your not sure what this is, it’s like a U shaped green). I hit the front end of the green, the pin was in back. You gotta love those 185 foot birdie putts for a 2. I did make par.

The rest of the top 25 include. 11. Scioto in Columbus Ohio. Jack Nicklaus boyhood golf course and host of the 2016 U.S. Sr. Open. 12. Bethpage Black NY, hosted 2002 and 2009 U.S Opens, will host 2024 Ryder Cup. 13. Lancaster CC,Lancaster PA, home of the 2015 U.S.Women’s Open. 14. Erin Hills, Erin Wisconsin, home of the 2017 U.S. Open. 15. Rolling Green GC, Springfield PA., home of the 2016 U.S. Women’s Amateur. 16. Streamsong Red, Streamsong Florida. 17. Sands Point, Great Neck NY. recently renovated by Keith Foster old Tillinghast course. 18. St.Georges GC on Long Island NY. it is the most fun you can have on a 6,300 yard golf course. 19. Kinderlou Forest in Valdosta Ga. 20. Sentry World in Stevens Point Wis., this Jay Bilasi redo is really good, enjoy the flower hole. 21. Old Elm GC. Highland Park IL., Drew Rodgers has recaptured the old Harry Colt/ Donald Ross design. 22. Cog Hill Dubsdread course #4. always enjoyable playing here, then having a Dubsburger afterwards. 23. Pine Meadow in Mundelein, can’t beat these old William S. Flynn courses. 24. Doral the Blue Monster, Gil Hanse has done some nice work to this Miami resort course. 25. Harbor Shores Golf Club in Benton Harbor Michigan, right after the Sr. PGA when the course was in great condition.

I hope your 2014 list was as enjoyable as mine was. good luck inputting together a great list of courses for 2015. Happy New Year. RS

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About Rory Spears

Rory spent over 8 years growing up working at Rob Roy Golf Club in Prospect Hts.IL, then two years at Chevy Chase in Wheeling. He has covered golf in Chicago since 1986. Rory was one of the initial members of WSCR all-sports radio Chicago and covered golf there for 5 seasons, before moving on to work for ESPN/Sportsticker and ESPN Radio. In addition to hosting Golfers on Golf Radio on WNDZ Am 750 Chicago, he writes for both Chicagoland Golf and the Chicago District (CDGA) Magazine. Rory has played over 460 courses in 37 states, and rates golf courses. He does golf course management and communications consulting, in the golf industry.