May 2, 2003
This year’s spring golf trip provided a valuable retirement planning lesson.
It is definitely possible to play too much golf all at once.
Kevin Conlon invited Nick DelCampo and me to travel to Pinehurst, North Carolina and sample the golf in the popular Sandhills resort area, along with nine other friends and relatives. In five days we played just over six and a-half rounds, at times during torrential downpours.
Considering that most of this group are AARP-eligible, this level of intensity led to some less-than-stellar golfing performances, especially during the last round.
We had a good time just the same.
Our first round began last Friday in Vass, North Carolina, at the Woodlake Resort & Golf Club. We played The Maples Course, one of two layouts surrounding a huge lake and resort/residential complex.
Scott Medlin, a former PGA Tour player and currently an assistant golf professional at the resort, said Maples is more popular with members and golfing tourists than the companion Palmer Course, although Palmer drains better in wet conditions.
We experienced the limitations of the drainage system shortly after our early afternoon round began, when the rains came on the third hole. As our foursome slogged through the eleventh hole, the two prior foursomes drove back to our location and told us they were quitting for the day. The resort staff readily agreed to give us a rain check for a nine-hole round, which we used in a mini-scramble on Monday afternoon.
Despite the rain, the Maples Course was challenging yet fair to our group. The elevation changes from tee to green were sometimes startling for us flatlanders, and the lake and other water hazards gathered up a few errant drives, but this course is well worth playing again, although preferably on a sunny day.
Saturday’s round was at Tobacco Road, a dramatic Mike Strantz design in Sanford, north of Pinehurst.
The unique elements of this course begin on the par-5 first hole, with a pair of high hills sloping down to a tiny bit of fairway opening through which the drives must travel about 165 yards from the main tee. A course staffer stood on top of the right side slope and radioed back the results of the attempts that landed beyond (or on) the mounds. I used a five-iron/six-iron/eight-iron combination to reach the green in regulation, and it was all I could do to make the two-putt for par.
Similar daunting but reasonable tests await intrepid golfers elsewhere. The blind approach to the green at the thirteenth hole would be hard on a sunny day, for example, but in a downpour it was really tough. Our group was suitably impressed.
Sunday morning’s round took place thirty miles south of Pinehurst Village, at the Bayonet at Puppy Creek course near Raeford. This Willard Byrd design was far milder than our first two experiences, but by then we were fine with that. Bayonet reminded me of Cripple Creek Country Club near Ocean View, only with significant elevation changes. Replay privileges were very reasonable, and we played a 9-hole scramble round after our first 18.
We played The Legacy course on Monday morning, in Aberdeen. This is the third time our group played this Jack Nicklaus II design, and there’s a good reason. The course presents a fair and fun challenge for a wide range of skills.
Our get-away round Tuesday was at Little River Golf Club, in Carthage. By then all the golf from the prior four days seemed to catch up to most of us, with some very high scores as a result. It also didn’t help that the course was what I call member-friendly, with the best way to play several holes only discernible after a few rounds.
After suitable commiserations, however, the group agreed to another five-day experience next year. I doubt we’ll play more than 18 holes per day next time, though.
Some old dogs can learn new tricks.