"Changing the world one divot at a time..."
4 for 40
Pinehurst. Ballyneal. Cabot Links. St. Andrews. A trip of a lifetime for a worthy cause.
Welcome to Husker Dunes Golf Club, my foray into fake golf course design.
The Ben Cox 108+
Photos and recap on a great day at Ballyneal, raising money for a great cause...
Never thought I'd see the day...
Can you guess how I fared on this U.S. Open test?
The Definitive Guide to Chicago's Best Public Golf Courses
Check out our ranking of the best Chicago public golf courses...
Jim connects with his roots during three days in beautiful Northern California...
The Ballynizzle Cup
Check out Part One of the Ryder Cup showdown between Team Coltrain and Team Jefe...
The Bucket List
The Triumvirate checks off one of the courses they've been dying to play in a truly once in a lifetime experience...
The Kingsley Club
Check out the triumvirates visit to Mike Devries incredible course in Northern Michigan...
Tang vs. Tang: One for the Ages
Check out the (extremely) detailed hole-by-hole action of the 2008 Shell's Wonderful World of Golf, a truly epic match between the brothers Tang...
Hopefully this will help generate interest in the event and drum up more future Hundred Hole Hikers. We are off to a great start in 2014 with 21 golfers hiking at 13th Beach in Australia on January 23. And there are many other exciting possibilities that I hope to announce soon. If you're interested in learning more about the HHHike, please go to http://www.hundredholehike.com/get-involved or email me at email@example.com.
Here is the screen grab from the digital issue of the magazine. Have fun determining which guy has the biggest forehead:
OLD COURSE - Thursday, 04 July 2013
06:20 EVENSON J - COLTON J - DOAK T - WATT D - 100 HOLE CHARITY CHALLENGE
Though the St Andrews Hundred Hole Hike was months in the planning, the reality didn't hit home until I saw my name at the very top of the Old Course ballot. I was wrapping up my fourth and final leg of this 17-day adventure with 100 holes at the Home of Golf. On the 4th of July. With arguably the world's greatest living golf-course architect (and personal favorite) Tom Doak? How the heck did this happen? This was more than just a golf event for charity; it was like a golfclubatlas.com fantasy camp experience.
Just getting on the Old Course ballot in the first place is tough enough. The process seems to be a deeply shrouded secret. Getting out as the first group on the Old...that was a dream come true.
My friend and fellow hiker Josh was the point-person in organizing the hike. He's worked with the University of St. Andrews over the past few years and has close contacts with the Links Trust. The Links Trust set up a great plan to get us to 100 holes. First, an early start at the 9-hole Balgove, then the aforementioned Old Course, then over to play the Eden and Strathyrum (I still can't pronounce it correctly), then rounds on the Jubilee and the New Course. Those are the six courses managed by the Links Trust that are in the middle of town (the Links Trust recently added the Castle course just outside of town, but that wasn't on our agenda). The in-town courses got us to 99 holes -- the plan was to finish late in the day with the first hole of the Old Course to get the group to an even 100.
Rounding out the foursome was David Watt, an instructor for the Links Trust and the golf coach at the university. Both Josh and he were raising money for a new golf scholarship at the school, named after CB Macdonald. Throughout the day, David had honors off the tee by default, and showed us other hacks the general path to follow.
Of course, the star of the show was Doak, recent Michigan Golf Hall of Fame inductee, noted author and arguably a member of golf course architecture's Mount Rushmore (discuss amongst yourselves). Doak counts six world Top 100 courses to his credit: Pacific Dunes, Barnbougle Dunes, Cape Kidnappers, Old Macdonald (w/ Jim Urbina), Ballyneal (boom!) and Sebonack (site of the recent US Womens Open, co-designed with Jack Nicklaus).
I leaned on Tom about hiking back in January, joking that he was contractually obligated to participate as the 2012 Walking Golfer of the Year. Honestly, it didn't take much arm twisting. I've found Doak to be very supportive of charitable golf efforts, particularly those that expose our great game to young people who might not otherwise get the chance. For example, his firm built a three hole practice course in inner-city Detroit, and he donated a prize in the fundraising auction we did for the Midnight Golf program there. CommonGround in Denver was another huge success story, turning a nondescript former Air Force course into arguably the most fun public tract in Denver. Like me, Doak decided to hike for the Solich Caddie & Leadership Academy at Common.
A hike at St. Andrews was also a big selling point for Doak. As part of a grant he received from Cornell to study the world's great old courses over 30 years ago, he caddied at St Andrews for a couple months and spent a good chunk of that time picking the brain of the old superintendent. The Home of Golf holds a special place in his heart, with the Old Course as the origin for much of his design ethos.
An interesting sidebar to the hike at St Andrews were the recent changes made to the Old Course, designed to protect against someone shooting a 59 in the Open Championship held there once every five years. Bunkers were moved and contours were altered and the famed Road Hole bunker was modified in the first grand scale changes to the course aside from lengthening in nearly 100 years.
The changes were covertly announced the day after Thanksgiving by the R&A and started immediately after, with little opportunity for public debate on the need for such changes. Many likened the changes to painting a mustache on the Mona Lisa (a phrase R&A Chief Executive Peter Dawson himself used to describe new tee boxes added in 2002). A #savetheoldcourse twitter campaign was launched (by me) and gained some steam. Purists argued that instead of carving up these cathedrals of the game, why not finally slow down the golf ball and/or equipment?
While most architects toed the company line, Doak was the most outspoken against the changes. He wrote letters to industry groups, architectural societies and an open letter to the people of St Andrews, who are the true owners and stewards of the Old Course.
Including Doak in the hike here might have been viewed as a controversial decision in some circles. I imagined #savetheoldcourse picket signs, him staging a lock-in in the new Martin Hawtree bunkers on the second hole, or me offering a shoulder for Doak to cry on upon seeing the changes made to the famed 11th green. Thankfully, the event went smoothly and without issue, and seemed to be a huge success for everybody involved. For me, the entire day seemed like one supersonic blur.
We met up at the Balgove course at 5:00 am on Thursday, Josh and I pulling up in my rented Peugeot speedster with the worst GPS system known to man ("They heard he plays fast, so they gave him a sports car," Doak remarked. My knuckles were too white from driving on the other side of the road to actually enjoy it, and mostly deferred to Josh to drive.) David parked on the other side of the lot, and Doak surfaced from the early morning fog carrying a Mackenzie bag with the only six clubs he brought across the Atlantic. Five minutes later, we were hitting our first tee shots of the day.
Playing speed golf in a foursome and without caddies was a new experience for me. Playing 100 holes in a day was completely new for my playing partners. We didn't really have a game plan for day, we just kind of settled into a rhythm by trial and error. Doak struggled with the pace for the first few holes and made some big numbers. I failed to get the golf ball more than five feet off the ground, but it was going in the right general direction.
The Balgove is a 9-hole practice (or practice) course designed for families and beginners, and as a par 30 with some 245-yard par 4's, would normally be ripe for some birdie or eagle bonuses if we weren't skunking it around so much. As expected, David led the way with one birdie and a 31. I had a 34, Josh had 38 and Tom brought up the rear with a 41, but with one birdie. The 9-hole round took us 42 minutes to play.
From there, we zipped over to the famed Old Course for our main event. We arrived 20 minutes ahead of time, and a number of golfers had assembled near the starters hut to fill in open spots on the day's tee sheet. We strutted confidently towards the first tee, knowing we were in extremely rare company with a 6:20 tee time, ten minutes before the normal first time.
Standing on the one of the most famous first tees in all of golf, I was quickly reminded just how big our little grassroots efforts had grown. I repeat...how the heck did this happen? To top it off, while standing on the tee, three different people approached our group and asked, "which one of you is Jim Colton?" Two of the guys, Ben and Andy, we're GCAers. Ben works as the starter, Andy was visiting from DC on a golf trip. The third guy was Allan, who brought a large bag with breakfast for each member of the group, courtesy of Herb Kohler and the Hamilton Grand building beyond the 18th green. Finally I brought some value to the foursome, even if it was just free bacon sandwiches and coffee.
Rounding out the entourage were Chris, who overheard Josh talking about the hike at a pub the day before and asked, "wait...Jim Colton is here?" and Simon, a friend of Tom's and, from what I could tell, Scotland's reigning Mr. Congeniality. Simon came to caddie for Tom on the Old Course and ended up sticking around for half the day -- he probably would've sucked around for all 100 if his wife hadn't been 8.97 months pregnant.
We all hit our opening tee shots -- Tom finding the burn down the right side, my worm burner ran a good 220 yards (fescue!) and finished just short of the water, and our posse set off down Broadway (how many golf blogs can work in a pre-"Baby Got Back" Sir Mix-A-Lot reference?) Chris immediately grabbed Josh's bag and headed down the fairway. About 100 yards off the tee, Andy looked back at me dragging my bag and reluctantly offered to take it, like I was the last single bridesmaid left at a wedding reception.
Just like at Balgove, my swing tempo was way too fast and I could barely get the ball airborne. I didn't find much trouble though, and managed to score well. The last (and only) time I played the Old Course back in 2000, my wife and I waited at the starter's box for five hours in 45-degree temps. Once I finally got out, I promptly double-bogeyed the first five holes. Here, I started out with five 5's, then rolled in a birdie putt on 6 and drove the green on the 7th to within 15 feet of the pin -- except it was the pin for the shared 11th hole. A three-putt par from 180 feet, followed by two 4's on 8 &9 and I had made the turn in a respectable 40. If I could match the 37 I shot on the back nine in 2000, I'd have something to brag about.
Not so fast. We made the turn and my fortunes took a dramatic turn for the worse. It all started innocently enough on the 10th, as I hit a seemingly okay approach shot that just ran through the green. Instead, the ball got hung up in the tall grass, with my stance leaving the ball at sternum-level. I had to step up a small ledge to determine where my ball was, then step back down and blindly swing where I thought the ball was. As you might expect, this did not end well.
It turns out, I probably should've just played my tee shot on the 7th into the 11th hole and just finished in from there. When I played the hole for real, a slappy 7-iron found the Strath bunker and everybody else in the group instantly groaned. "Your over/under is five from there," Simon remarked. "Or six," Tom quickly chimed in. I hate it when Tom is right.
The rest of the back nine was like a grand tour of all of the mysterious bumps, hollows and hazards of the Old Course. All of those bunkers that look like they are there for no particular reason at all? Well, I discovered the very reason: to add numerous strokes to my score on July 4, 2013.
The clotted cream in the tea was the famed Road Hole. There are a lot of golf holes in the world, but only a handful of Once-in-a-Lifers -- holes that you think about months in advance with shots that you really don't want to screw up. The 16th at Cypress Point probably takes the cake, but other examples include the 17th at Sawgrass, 12th at Augusta and 18th at Pebble Beach. The Road Hole has to be the Par 4 representative in this pantheon. Golfers would give up their partner's right arm for just one divinely-intervened swing that propels the ball over the shed and around the corner. Everything else in the round is secondary.
Unfortunately, this is doubly true for bad shots. I'm still haunted by my duck hook into the Pacific at Cypress three years ago. And I will now be tormented by the following topped shot that went a grand total of ten yards on the greatest par 4 on the planet.
Unfortunately, it didn't get much better from there. I managed to hack my way out of the tall rough, then played cautiously up the right side of the hole. My fourth shot ran through the right side of the green and ended up on the clay path between the green and the Road. I then tried to play a touch shot from the path, but left it short and on the bank of the green. To this point, I had played 474 1/2 holes with a wide assortment of scores, but had yet to make a single quintuple bogey. One chip and three putts later and that streak was o-va. Add another three putt on the home hole for good measure, and my final tally made me want to pull a Bobby Jones and rip my scorecard to shreds: 40-55 95.
In sharp contrast, Doak was right at home at the Home of Golf and it showed. After a bogey on the first hole, he hit a great drive down the middle on the 2nd. His approach shot barely cleared the Hawtree bunkers (usually it's bad form to wish ill on your playing partners, but all seven of us were openly rooting for his shot to go in one of those bunkers, just for comedic purposes. Doak's birdie effort hung on the edge, which is probably a good thing -- if 10-handicappers like Doak keep birdieing it, what's next? A bunker in the middle of the green, a la Riviera?)
Tom kept the party going by hitting the flagstick with his second shot on the par 5 5th, leading to a routine birdie, then rolling in a 15-footer for birdie on the short par 3 8th. This. Doak. Is on Fire!!! That could be a song, if anyone would be lame enough to write a song about a golf course architect.
Watching Doak play links golf, it's no wonder why he builds his golf courses the way he does. The dude is a short-game maestro. I think he truly does see greensites like Neo. He is deadly from about 75 yards in, usually hitting a bump n run shot with his 7-iron. He surveys the land, takes a gander at the slope right around the hole, goes back to his ball, then takes some mini-waggles with an open stance. You can almost see his bionic brain churning through all of the physics equations involved. Then he pops the ball and it always seems to take the contours the right way, propelling up any slope with just enough pace left over to finish within four feet of the hole. He's just as deft with his old-school putter, dying the ball at the hole from the high side like his good friend Ben Crenshaw. Only a surprising miss from 4 feet on the last hole kept him from posting a 79. Still, it was an impressive showing and extremely fun to watch.
We had played the Old Course in about two hours and five minutes. If I hadn't been so busy hacking it around on the back nine, we might've finished before the rains had come down. We had gotten the full assortment of Scottish weather before 8:30 AM, and we ended up finishing the last three holes in a pretty steady downpour of fat, round raindrops. Because our rounds were spaced three hours apart, we had plenty of time to get dried out and get geared up...except by the time we reached the first tee of the Eden course, the rain had completely stopped. Welcome to Scotland.
The Eden course, designed by Harry Colt, is a fun and sporty course with some good birdie opportunities. It is also personally noteworthy as the 150th course I've ever played back in 2000 (yes, i keep track of these things...I'm up to 343 now.) I decided that I needed to slow my swing down to about a third of its previous speed and start trying to hit golf shots. I was already beginning to feel like the fourth wheel, trying to keep the group score (and often falling 3-4 holes behind), usually hitting last off the tee and thus giving my partners a 25-30 yard head start down the fairway. With 180 miles already on the odometer and a minor foot injury sustained while running on the 8th hole on the Old Course, there was little chance of me catching up. With the wind blowing, I rarely could hear the conversation my partners were having - at one point, I know Simon told a great story about Donald Trump, but I missed about 90 percent of it. Sometimes Doak would turn his head my direction and make some comment -- for all I know, he could've been revealing his deep, dark design secrets, but all I could do is smile and nod like I understood what he was saying. My only hope was to start hitting some greens in regulation. I ended up with my best round of the day, a 40-40 80. Simon turned from caddie to track coach, and had us practically sprinting down the last hole to finish under two hours.
From the Eden, we went to the Strathyrum next door, another shortish course that was seemingly ripe for the taking. The Strath is billed as a "friendly introduction to links golf". I'm billing it as an "unfriendly introduction to the agony of the four putt". Similar to my quintuple bogey, I had managed to go this entire saga without a four jack, then I had two of them in a three-hole span, both coming from rushed putts missed from less than a foot away. The first was painful, as it came on a par 3 that I nearly aced, my shot landing short and left of the green, bounding then rolling right towards the cup, then disappearing behind the flagstick for a nanosecond before scooting about eight feet by. From possible ace to implausible double bogey just like that. "You need to work on your shorties," Simon quipped.
Doak, on the other hand, continued his strong play, and growing in confidence, actually started overpowering the Strath course. He had some good eagle looks and was hoping to pad the stats with some "cheapie birdies". Interestingly, Doak had generously made a pledge in support of my hike, with a per-birdie kicker. He added the note, "You can make as many birdies as you want at Ballyneal, as long as you don't make more than me at St. Andrews." At the time, I thought nothing of it. I was humming along with 28 birdies and an eagle through 449 holes. Certainly, I get outplay and out-birdie Doak on the day, right?
Wrong. Doak's 78 bested my 82 at the Strath course, and he was beginning to pull away on me on birdies and score. Links golf had exposed the weaknesses of my game, and I couldn't keep up with Doak's short-game wizardry. To top it off, after nearly every birdie that I did get, David would roll one in right on top of me. It was uncanny.
However, the most humbling moment of the day didn't come on the golf course, though one might think a 97 on the Jubilee course that I'm just now taking editorial liberties to gloss over would do the trick (at least Tom shot 97 as well, though he did have the shot of the day on number 9, hitting a 5-wood to about two-feet in a 35 mile per hour crosswind.) No, I was cut down to size after the round, as we sat in the clubhouse resting before our last full 18 on the New Course. I was sitting at a table with Doak, attempting to add up the carnage on our scorecards. Tom, busy nursing some blisters, took one sideways glance at the scorecard, then faster than Rain Man could count fallen toothpicks, said, "so, I had a 44 on the front."
I was floored. Not only has this guy seen and played nearly every great golf course in the world. Not only has he forgotten more than I'll ever know about golf course architecture. Not only was he taking me to school on the golf course. He's going to out-math me as well? Do I have to spend the rest of my career looking over my shoulder, wondering if he's going to barge in the office and start building better capital models too?
Well, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. For our round on the New Course, I proposed that we play a fourball match with the logical teams being David & Josh (Team St. Andrews) versus Tom & me (Team Solich Academy). After the grind on the Jubilee and the miles and hours starting to wear on us, plus with no real sense of urgency left -- 100 was a foregone conclusion, a match would be a welcome change of pace. And of course, I was hoping to harness some of the match play magic that I had at Cabot Links, where I waxed my buddy Harris 4&2 in my seventh round (his second).
Early on, it was all going as planned. I birdied the opening hole, and parred the third to give team Doak & Dork a 2-up lead. From there, it was a see-saw battle. David birdied the 4th hole to get it to 1-up, then it was all-square after six. Doak's game had deserted him, and I was forced to try and carry the team, not exactly my strong suit. We won the 8th hole, then Josh, who had struggled for most of the day, came alive at just the right time. All four players found the green on the majestic uphill 9th, but only Josh found the bottom of the cup in two.
We responded by winning the tenth, but David squared the match again with a birdie on the 11th. We pulled ahead on the 14th, then Josh, playing with a loaner driver from David, finally figured out his timing and started crushing the ball. The closing holes were playing into a tough right-to-left wind, never my thing, and I was faced with having to hit clutch shots off the tee. One blocked shot, which admittedly was very likely at the moment, and the match would've been effectively over. But I was able to pull off the bunt drive that Schulte taught me back at Ballyneal, and on the 15th and 16th holes, was right next to Josh in the fairway. And on both holes, I failed to hit the green from total green light positions. I'm still dumbfounded.
There was still hope though. On the 16th, with the match all-square, I found the pot bunker short of the green. By this time, our old friend Ben was done with his shift as the starter and decided to join us the rest of the way. He was doing his best to boost my confidence and will a par out our team down the stretch. I hit a bunker shot that Ben called "Mickelson-esque"...unfortunately my 5-foot par putt that slid right on by and incredulous reaction reeked of Phil as well. All of a sudden, we were one-down with two holes to play.
The 17th hole on the New is a tough 211-yard par 3. Tom, Josh and I all hit tee shots that leaked left and ended up bouncing into the tall grass. David missed the green but was in good position to make 3. Either Tom or I had to make a par. Only about 25 feet away, but to a pin tucked just over a steep slope, our work was cut-out for us. "This is a tough place to try to get up and down," Tom admitted. "If he's already thinking that, then what chance do I have?" I thought to myself.
Tom hit first and hit a decent shot, the ball scooting up the slope a little bit and ending up on the front of the green, about 10-12 feet from the hole. I knew I had to do better. I opted for the chunk and run with my lob wedge, and judged it just right. The ball rolled up over the mound to four feet away. A clutch shot under the circumstances!
Tom putted first and pulled his shot to the right. I was really, really hoping he would make it. I had a putt on a similar line and aimed at the right edge. I'm brutal with right edge putts, but was convinced it was the right read. I had been playing too much break for most of the day. There was no way this putt could break outside the hole.
And of course it did. The putt curled sharply to the left by the hole, and just like that, the match was over. A 2&1 victory for the home team. I don't think Doak will be asking me to be his Ren Cup partner anytime soon.
The silver lining was the match was a blast and, more importantly, it had the desired effect of creating a much-needed distraction to get us from hole 82 to hole 99. Now, it was back to the Old Course to finish it off.
At one point, very early in the day, we joked about sprinting down the first fairway to see who could finish the hole first, something Tom had done once out at Ballyneal. Hours later, there was an unspoken pact not to bring up that idea ever again. Hitting into a bright, setting sun, we teed off one by one. Doak. Evenson. Watt. And finally Colton. My drive was sliced badly, but thankfully there is a ton of room. My ball rested about 10 feet from the out-of-bounds stakes on this 110-yard wide fairway. Both David and I hurried to hit shots towards the first green while golfers on 18 tried to hit their closing tee shots.
A couple minutes later, we were putting out as a group for the 100th and final time. On the first green of the most historic golf course of them all. At that point, it didn't really matter what the scores were. It didn't really matter that I violently lipped out a 25-foot putt for par (but it still stings a little). We went into the day not really knowing what to expect, and 15 hours later, we were at the finish line. I made the final putt, and it was handshakes, smiles and hugs all around.
While Tom, Josh and David all now had a nice round '100' next to their name, I was sitting at a somewhat awkward '549'. It just didn't seem right to end then and there. So I walked over the 18th tee, approached a nice family that was just coming off the Road Hole green, and said, "Excuse me, I just finished walking 549 holes for charity, do you mind if I join you for this last hole to make it a nice round 550?"
They kindly obliged my request and I hurriedly hit one right down the middle. They were a nice family from South Africa, and had quite a posse of their own. Father. Two sons, roughly ages 13 & 17. And Grandma (she could rip it) all played. Mom and two sisters walked along, undoubtedly recording the day with 1,000 pictures. As they stood on the Swilken Bridge for the obligatory picture, I couldn't help but think that THIS is what it was all about. This was the very heart of golf. Links golf brought this out in people. Links golf is what binds us. If you couldn't help but laugh and smile at St. Andrews, no matter the weather, no matter the score, then maybe you should be taking up another game.
A lot had happened to me since I last stood on that bridge in 2000. I had just gotten married and was only a few years into a career. A couple years later, we had our first of three kids. My game ebbed and flowed. Sometimes I loved it. Other times, I hate to say I hated it. I really struggled to find the right balance between golf, family, career and faith. The Old Course was an experience, for sure, but I don't think I quite understood what it meant at that time.
In contrast, over thirty years ago a young Tom Doak walked these same hallowed grounds. He knew what he wanted to be. He just didn't know how it was going to happen. But living and working in the town, he understood what I didn't get until I was staring at three generations of random South Africans. Doak got it and set out to spread the age-old principles of the Old Course to others, notably to U.S. golfers who had been inundated with target-golf, cart-ball, real-estate driven clones. One of the courses Doak built was Ballyneal, my home away from home and one of the truest links golf experiences in the U.S.
It's not hard to see the great circle of life here. Doak lives at St. Andrews. Doak builds golf courses. Doak builds Ballyneal. Colton joins Ballyneal. Colton meets Ben Cox, walks a lot of holes for him. Colton forms Hundred Hole Hike. Colton hikes with Doak at St. Andrews.
One more time...how the heck did this happen?
I'm not exactly sure, but I sure hope that it happens again. In the meantime, I'll be practicing my 7-iron bump and run.
|Finishing with a par on the 550th hole|
Part One: Pinehurst
Part Two: Ballyneal
Part Three: Cabot Links
Note: I walked 550 holes for charity as part of the Hundred Hole Hike, a charity golf event that I founded in 2012. I am raising money for the Solich Caddie & Leadership Academy in Denver and the Evans Scholars Foundation. If you'd like to support my hike, please go to the link below and click on any one of the "Pledge Thru Me" buttons on the page. Also, please review any of the 84 other hikers participating for a variety of worthwhile causes.
Walking up to the 10th tee at Highlands Links, Stanley Thompson’s masterpiece in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, I finally approached the twosome that I had been dawdling behind for most of the front nine. They were in the middle of a conversation with the woman at the halfway house (someone they obviously knew) and offered to let me play through. Of course, I obliged. As I pulled my club for this short, downhill par 3, one of the gentlemen offered, “Take an extra club…this hole always plays longer than it looks.”
That didn’t really compute, but I was on foreign soil. Maybe downhill shots played longer in Canada. Who was I to question the local knowledge? Instead of clubbing up to Pitching Wedge, I kept my gap wedge and swung as hard as I could. The ball was solidly struck and with the help of the right-to-left wind, started tracking at the pin. “Be good,” I said emphatically (only because I thought my first choice, Hal Sutton’s eponymous “Be the right club, tu-DAY” might be lost on my new friends from the North.)
As the ball descended, I thought about how cool it would be to make an ace during my first round of golf in Canada. I thought about how a ‘1’ on the scorecard would help offset the ‘12’ I wrote down just three holes earlier (more to come on that). And I wondered how fast I would blow through my carefully-calculated allotment of International data, messaging and phone minutes -- most notably with a long-winded “EEEEAAAGGGLEEE…on a par THREEEEE” voice-mail to my buddy/adversary Jefe (seeing it’s me, and knowing generally when I’m on the golf course, he’s pretty-much stopped picking up my calls for this very reason.)
Just as I was wrapping up these thoughts, the ball landed on the back fringe, then took a mini-hop to the back-edge of the green, a good 35-feet past the hole. I stared at the ball on the green, staying in my post-shot position for a couple beats longer than normal, like a slugger who’d just been rung-up looking on a questionable strike to end a baseball game.
“Well, I guess I forgot to the factor in that you’re left-handed,” the man explained.
Hold the fort...I’m getting left-handed grief in Canada? I thought this was the land of the lefties? After 30-years of hearing every “wrong-side of the ball” variation known to man, I thought I was in a safe haven here. Nope…still singled-out, ostracized and oppressed. The story of my life as a southpaw golfer.
Why start with this seemingly insignificant golf story? Because it was really the only time I felt like an outsider during a very enjoyable and memorable four-day journey to Nova Scotia, which included the third leg of my four-part Hundred Hole Hike at Cabot Links.
Ballyneal, the unofficial home of the Hundred Hole Hike, has always been the home of some pretty extreme numbers. First, we had a record $110,000 raised for one cause in 2011. Last year, the eight Ballyneal hikers were faced with 107 degree temperatures.
This year was no different. First, my bunkmate and future fourball tournament partner Wyatt Halliday played 108 holes and shot even par for the day! All this while playing to a Pandora mix seeded by, from what I could gather, The Backstreet Boys and Carly Rae Jepsen.
Even more remarkable, Mitch Ehly recorded the first double eagle in Hundred Hole Hike history after he jarred his 2nd shot on the par 5, 15th hole. He asked his playing partner Brian Carruthers for the number. Both Brian and Mitch worked in the shop up until a couple years ago, and know the course extremely well. Brian told him 155, agreed with the pitching wedge and told him to 'just swing hard'. Mitch, essentially a golf robot, punched in the number into his computer and spit out the perfect shot. Unfortunately for Mitch, with all of the bonus pledge features we've added to hundredholehike.com this year, I never considered an investment in an albatross feature. If Mitch had holed-out his drive on the infamous 7th hole at Ballyneal, he would've netted an extra $2,500 for his Disabled American Veterans charity. Instead, he gets a hearty handshake and a pat on the back (if you want to show Mitch some love with a pledge to acknowledge this feat, please go to: http://hundredholehike.com/golfers/mitch-ehly)
And finally, Rob 'THE Walking Golfer' Rigg claimed the "Sheriff of Hikesville" badge with a remarkable 171 holes walked in one day. That's 60 miles up and down some sand dunes. Plus, rumor has it that a) he may have done it with only club or b) he may have alternated between right- and left-handed swings.
[Note: Rigg only held the Sheriff title for a day, as he was surpassed on Tuesday by Oregon hiker Bobby Tabb. Tabb hit the 10-round barrier, going 180 deep at Sunset Grove Golf Club. This numbers game has me feeling a bit like Bud Selig, with Tabb as Mark McGwire to Rigg's Sammy Sosa. Let's just hope they don't end up on the cover of Sports Illustrated in togas. If I show up next year with six-pack abs, the head the size of a large watermelon and break the 200-hole mark in a day, can we all just agree to look the other way?]
All of these mind-boggling numbers made my third consecutive 155 holes at Ballyneal seem like old hat. Halliday had me beat before he even got out of bed, as I three-putted the first hole for double bogey at 4:47 A.M. (a disturbing trend for my 2013 hikes). Rigg lapped me on my 140th hole (his 149th). And the only "double" anything I attained on Monday were 17 double bogeys and one double cheeseburger after the marathon was over.
Before you think I'm just going to roll over and play fourth fiddle at my home club in the event I founded, I submit to you one mind-blowing, jaw-dropping, astronomic number:
Jim Colton, Fairways Hit: 85/120 (70.8%)
Happy learned how to hit a fairway.
I don't claim to be a Payne Stewart expert or historian, but I recently discovered a little known fact about the late three-time major champion.
Dude was a yoga master.
It should not come to a surprise that no one has ever revealed this nugget until now. I only discovered it after walking 144 holes at Pinehurst on Monday, for the first of my four Hundred Hole Hikes. Pinehurst has been around for over 100 years, but certainly no one had ever walked 144 holes before at the resort. That put me in a unique Vasco da Gama-esque position to drop this little known gem on the golf community. Consider your mind blown.
You see, after 72 holes of the mental and physical toll that must come from winning a US Open (not speaking from personal experience), how does one explain that modified, single-leg warrior pose that Stewart managed pulled off? That now timeless stance has endured, because of the stage, the setting, and the spontaneity of it all. People had never seen anything quite like it.
But was it really spur of the moment? After 144 holes at Pinehurst, I can't help but wonder if he practiced it in front of a mirror on a yoga mat for months, waiting for just the right moment to spring it on the world.
I was fortunate enough to bookend my 8-round journey Monday with rounds on the famed No. 2 course, Donald Ross's gem that is making history by hosting US Open's for the men and women next year in back-to-back weeks. That's 144 holes of professionals (and a handful of amateurs) struggling to make par. Combined with the 144 holes at the resort, what better way to commemorate their first day "on the clock" as Open host with 144 holes of a very amateur golfer really struggling to make par?
Obviously, that meant my 144th and final hole would end on the 18th green of No. 2, site of one of the most memorable moments in golf history. Everybody who knows me knew exactly what that meant. There was no way I was not going to strike that pose. Nothing to it. Right?
After hitting my approach shot on the 18th to just off the back left corner of the green, a mediocre putt left me about 15 feet below the hole. Here was my Payne Stewart opportunity, minus the plus-fours and the roomy sleeveless rain jacket (the resort would make a mint if they sold these in the pro shop). I made a confident stroke, the ball curling right towards the hole for an assured par. I started lifting one leg in the air...what a way to finish the day! Then the ball lipped out. Violently.
Yes, I then proceeded to miss the three-footer coming back, amidst the groans of my two caddies, one newspaper reporter, Executive Vice President of the resort Tom Pashley (and from what i could gather, a guy who might have the best job on earth) and famed writer and Pinehurst local James Dodson. Mercifully, I made the next tap-in putt to complete a not-very stellar 85. The moment was effectively lost, but the guys were ready with cameras for the pose regardless. I planted on one leg, lifted my right arm with putter forward, raised my left leg as high as it would go (probably 6-9 inches off the ground at most). Almost immediately, my right foot gave way to the weight of 40+ miles of walking and 195-pounds of flab, and I fell over. Unlike Payne, I don't think they'll memorialize this on the Walk of Fame anytime soon.
I was determined to get it right though. A second attempt was no better than the first. Finally, I mustered up enough energy to stay upright for the 2.5 seconds it took to snap this picture.
It wasn't pretty. But it got the job done. And that pretty much summed up my golf for the day.
Frankly, it's been a brutal spring. My HHH training has been in a rut. Falling down and injuring my hip and wrist set me back about a month. My wrist was slow to fully heal, which sapped any motivation to get out and to the gym. This was later made an impossibility by a string of 16-hour work days, including weekends. Meanwhile, our house was upside-down with a kitchen remodel. Golf wasn't even on the radar.
Thankfully, light started to shine through the tunnel over the course of the last week. Like many others, I was inspired by Kevin Cahoon's commitment and training regimen. I even picked a FitBit like he did, to provide that tracking, feedback and little extra motivation. Staying at my in-laws house about a mile away from our house during this renovation project, I took any opportunity to walk or ride back to/from the houses as errands warranted. And I simply had to start getting back in golf shape if there was any chance of walking 500 holes over 2 1/2 weeks at Pinehurst, Ballyneal, Cabot Links and St. Andrews (w/ Tom Doak!) Besides, who wouldn't want to play as many holes as humanly possible at those destinations?
One key part of my training the last two years has been a late-May/early June trip to Ballyneal, specifically to get the legs going again. I 'floated the concept' of a short-notice golf trip to my wife Sue, filed under the guise of HHH Training. You might think this was a pretty pathetic attempt to squeeze in an extra golf getaway. And I might think that you are one pretty perceptive fella. In either case, yada, yada, yada...there I was on Friday getting picked up from the airport for a ride out to the Chop Hills.
[Speaking of Ballyneal, I get a lot of questions about why someone living in Chicago would be a member at a golf club 850 miles away. There are a couple of responses: a) have you been there? b) it's a great solution for a guy with a young family, condensing scarce golf days into a few quality trips per year and c) I can wake up in Chicago and be on the first tee in Colorado at 10:15 AM, plenty of time to get in 36+ holes on both the getaway and return day.]
Fellow Hundred Hole Hiker Brandon Urban did whatever spousal negotiations were necessary to join me, driving 6 1/2 hours that morning from Kansas. HHHer John Penny already had plans to be there as well, and joined us after the first nine holes Friday. My nutritional guru and former HHHer/HGHer 'Magic' Matt Schulte provided the transportation and came out for the day, pouncing on the opportunity to beat up on some young (he just turned 40, so I'm going to use that adjective while I still can), injured and doughy prey. From his perspective, forcing the loser of the match to carry his clubs up from the 18th hole wasn't just Ballyneal tradition, it was an opportunity for me to do some additional leg strengthening exercises. Thank you, Matt?
For perhaps the first time ever, Matt and I were teammates against John and Brandon in the afternoon, and we played what turned out to be a 9-hole match off the back nine. As I continually walked up the dunes to find my (and Brandon's) erratic drives, I came to realize what everybody else already knew but was afraid to say: man, I'm out of shape. 22 holes into the trip and I was completely gassed.
Worse yet, whenever I tried to swing my driver, my calves would cramp up, producing some awkward swings but surprisingly decent results (I turned it around and carried our team to the victory...and Brandon and John carried the clubs up 'The Climb' after the round!). After a big drive on 18, both my legs seized up, I hobbled around in pain and fell straight to the ground. Needless to say, my friends
Fortunately for me, I was able to get past the leg cramp issues with some electrolyte chews (leftover from last year's hike). Unfortunately for me, that wasn't the most embarrassing picture of the weekend.
My other motivation for getting out to Colorado was to scope out some land that I had routed a golf course on, mainly just for kicks but also just in case I had won the $600 million Powerball lottery. I mean, who wouldn't want to play a golf course designed by the 7th place finisher in the Golfclubatlas armchair architecture contest? After completing that entry and discovering the mystical powers of Google Earth, I started scouring the virtual land surrounding Ballyneal for potential golf holes. While there's probably enough land (if not enough water) for four courses, I honed in on a portion of land a couple miles south of the current course (and beyond the course already routed out by Bruce 'Hep-B' Hepner), in quieter dunes relative to the jagged Chop Hills of the original. I envisioned a tight, walking only design, even toying with the idea of having something work backwards and forwards, a la St. Andrews (though I wasn't smart enough to pull that off). I put together a rough routing (below), with the caveat that a site visit and some pictures would really help me visualize whether the holes worked or not.
So my plan was to wake up at the crack of dawn, borrow Brandon's car and drive over this plot of land and walk the routing and take notes and pictures along the way. My plan was not to turn onto a makeshift road, realize it was a) a bad idea and b) north of the property I wanted to look at it, try to turn around Brandon's car and get it dead stuck in the sand. But that's exactly what happened. Five minutes into my career as a golf course designer, and it was effectively over before it started.
It was a little bit like the opening scene of Breaking Bad, minus the gun and the roving meth lab in back (Yes, I was wearing pants). I searched the back of Brandon's car for a shovel, a survival kit and maybe an emergency flare gun, but had to settle on trying to dig the car out of the sand with a tire iron. The more I tried to extricate the car, the deeper it got buried in the sand. It had to be the single most ridiculous moment of futility in my 39 1/2 years of existence.
Finally, I gave up, called and woke up Garrett from the club at 5:30 am and told him I was stuck. They sent someone out to get me, then later brought a truck to pull the car out of the rut. There were about 42 lessons learned that morning. Among them: Stick to pavement. Don't quit your day job. And first and foremost, you're an idiot.
Thankfully, things looked up from there. Saturday and Sunday were good days of golf, and I slowly got my sea legs back. I felt like a golfer again. A walking golfer. A Hundred Hole Hiker. Thanks to a great weekend with friends at Ballyneal, I pulled myself out of the rut, with a five-iron instead of a tire iron. I even tried out some lefty hickories for the first time, and had a blast with them. I might have to put them in the rotation for a round or two during the Ballyneal hike.
Please consider supporting my Hundred Hole Hike for the Solich Caddie & Leadership Academy in Denver and/or the Evans Scholars Foundation by clicking here. Please note that a pledge for any of the four events is a pledge for the entire multi-stage hike, so please keep my target of 500 holes in mind as you pledge. You do not need to pledge to each event individually. At the end of the event, you will receive instructions on how to fulfill the pledge with one or both causes, allowing you to choose how you'd wish to split your pledge. Please feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions. -- Jim
Here's my entry from AACII: Ballyneo
Hole-by-hole pics after the jump...
Happy Masters Sunday! While Phil Mickelson and Rory Mickelson are out of the running, many big names will be on center stage today: Angel Cabrera, Brendt Shnedeker, Adam Scott, Jason Day, Tiger Woods and, of course, Fred Ridley.
Make no mistake, on a day when the world will be plopping their proverbial butts on their proverbial couches to see who will slip on the green jacket, the 2013 Masters will forever be overshadowed by this mess created by the Green Jackets. By all accounts, Fred Ridley is a stand-up guy -- U.S. Amateur champion, Walker Cup participant and captain, former president of the USGA, rules demigod -- with some name recognition by golf die-hards before this week. This weekend he's a household name...and that's not a good thing.
Saturday's telecast, which already starts an agonizing hour later than it should (the retro-fluff pieces they run before the telecast are probably very interesting on any other day of the year, but they are like nails on a chalkboard when you're clamoring for live golf), launched with ten minutes of Ridley trying to defend the ruling with Nantz in the Butler Cabin. In a tournament where the rules officials lay in the weeds instead of following every group, the fact that an emergency press conference and damage-control lead-off were necessary was definitely not a good sign (plus, the officials were already in the spotlight after the Tianlang Guan's slowplay penalty/international incident) The best case scenario is the tournament comes and goes without incident, without us ever seeing or knowing who Ridley is, other than a guy you'd really, really want to have as a golf buddy.
I tracked dropgate closely starting very late Friday night and all through Saturday. I even set an all-time personal record by watching more than five minutes of the Golf Channel. I watched Ridley's press conference in its entirety. I dusted off my copy of the Rules of Golf. Here, in my humble opinion, is a summary of what transpired:
Tiger took a bad drop and played from the wrong spot. He signed for a 71, but should've signed for a 73. Normally this would be grounds for disqualification, however his 71 was actually the correct score at the time, because unbeknownst to him, the Rules Committee had already reviewed the drop and proactively gave him the all clear. So by little more than dumb luck, Tiger did not sign for the wrong score. It was only after Tiger incriminated himself that the Committee reopened the case and realized that 71 wasn't the correct score. His score was then changed to 73.
In short, the only reason that Tiger is still playing today is because the Committee supposedly reviewed the footage and said no harm, no foul. If this review hadn't happened until after Tiger had made his comments in the press conference, then they would've had grounds to disqualify him. If Tiger had said nothing in the press conference, but had later realized his mistake while replaying the round in his head, then the right thing to do would be to disqualify himself.
I use the word "supposedly" in the above paragraph for all of you conspiracy theorists out there. I have to admit that as I was watching the press conference yesterday, my B.S. meter was making small blips. Now I freely admit that this is primarily a function of me being a former die-hard baseball and college basketball fan who has seen my once idolized views of sport tarnished beyond recognition. I'm also a guy who has a hard time separating Tiger Woods the golfer from Tiger Woods the man. The tournament founded by Bobby Jones had to be one of the last bastions of purity and integrity, right? Don't take that away from me, please. There's no way the Masters would cave in the name of TV ratings and the almighty dollar, right? They wouldn't just fabricate this whole review story in order to create the loophole for the meal ticket to drive through, would they?
I want to believe Ridley's story that they reviewed the drop and concluded that there was nothing wrong. However, have you seen the video of the drop? In my opinion, Tiger clearly started with arm extended at "the spot" of his last shot, then took a full step back and dropped his ball. I just can't comprehend how somebody would review that footage and definitely say that it was fine. If anything, it would've warranted further investigation.
And guess what? Tiger was on the 18th hole when all of this was (supposedly) happening! If the Committee had just waited 10 minutes to ask Tiger about the drop, all of this would've been cleared up and we wouldn't even be talking about it today. I'm certain that Tiger would've given the same candid responses that he later did, the Committee would've said that's a violation, you need to add two strokes to your score, and we'd have a minor story instead of the major story.
So the Committee screwed up, and Tiger Woods is the beneficiary of their missteps.
We like to rail on the guys who call in these violations, painting them as dudes sitting in their recliners, bag of chips in one hand, Rules of Golf in the other, and 1-800-AUGUSTA on speed dial. My guess is the guys who called in are either other rules officials or other players, and that the switchboard lit up after that drop. I don't think the average viewer knows enough of the rules to recognize a violation or even know what to do or who to contact when they see one.
Couch potato or not, interestingly "the caller" might end up the one saving Tiger from himself. He may have cost him two strokes, but the timing of the call and the initial review are the reason Tiger is still in the tournament. If it happens 30 minutes later, he's DQ'd. If Tiger overcomes this four stroke deficit today, maybe he'll thank the phantom caller(s) (and Ridley) during the already awkward Butler Cabin ceremony.
The USGA created that Harrington rule a couple years ago to protect the golfer against these phone-in violations. The intent of Rule 33-7 was to protect the golfer from things he never could've known about, like things only discovered via Konica Minolta Biz Hub replays in 1080p. There's one problem though, Rule 33-7 isn't meant to protect players against ignorance of the Rules:
"A Committee would not be justified under Rule 33-7 in waiving or modifying the disqualification penalty prescribed in Rule 6-6d if the competitor's failure to include the penalty stroke(s) was a result of either ignorance of the Rules or of facts that the competitor could have reasonably discovered prior to signing and returning his score card."
Oops. This excellent post by Ryan Farb describes how the Committee incorrectly applied Rule 33-7, or at least incorrectly attributed their actions to Rule 33-7. The media, like most of us when we hear a rule expert start talking in numbers and dashes and slashes, heard Ridley say 33-7 over and over again and just ran with it. It wasn't until closer inspection proved this rule to be problematic.
To all who don't get 33-7. Sorry. There's no cure for stupid.[Actually David, there is a cure for stupid. It's Rule 33-7!]
— David Feherty (@Fehertwit) April 14, 2013
However, as Farb points out, the Committee's actions were in fact correct, using a different rule:
"The appropriate term for this is "Committee Error." If you look at Decision 34-3/1, the Committee is entitled to correct an incorrect ruling in stroke play provided the competition has not closed. They may do so by either rescinding an incorrectly assessed penalty or assessing a penalty not previously given. That is exactly what they did in this case, but the explanations given have been very poor in terms of the Rules of Golf."
And that part of the rule only holds up IF you assume what the Committee did constituted as a ruling. Is a non-ruling still a ruling?
So in the end, the committee acted within its right, did what they thought was fair and Tiger ended up with the same penalty that he would've gotten had they talked it out before he signed the scorecard. We took the scenic route, but ended up with a 'nothing to see here'. Now hopefully we can enjoy the back nine on Sunday just like every other year. Time to go sit my butt on the couch.
There are few things crazier than a man who is about to turn 40. Everyone seems to react to it a bit differently. One friend decided to get into "the best shape of his life," a fairly common reaction. I turn 40 this October, and had the misguided notion that I needed to dunk a basketball for the first time in my life, a plan that quite literally has not gotten very high off the ground. Is there something psychologically significant about approaching 40? Something that tells us that our best days are behind us?
Years ago, some enterprising 39-year old golf addict figured out that the 40th birthday is an iron-clad excuse to take a killer golf trip. Like most middle-aged men with young families, any golf trip requires a careful juggling act between spousal support and parental responsibilities. In my house, this usually starts by "floating the concept", which can be something as non-threatening as "Jeff's talking about going to Ireland again" or even more direct like "I got invited to play in this tournament". It's not as much about gaining spousal approval as it is about gauging the initial reaction -- determining whether it's something you want to pursue further. I have concept floating down to a science, though my success rate is driven largely by having an all-world wife (and the fact that I wait until she's half asleep to bring it up...yes, flights have been booked and tee times made based on groggy, incoherent grunts).
For whatever reason, that 40-year old golf trip is a different animal. Whereas most buddy trips require "cashing in some chips", generally wives are completely on-board with the special 40-year old trip. Some even do all the planning! A friend last year left us all speechless and completely envious when he was heading straight from our weekend at Ballyneal to San Francisco for a round that his wife set-up for him at Cypress Point! Other friends have set-up similar once-in-a-lifetime trips to Monterey, Australia, Ireland and Bandon.
With that as a backdrop, my beautiful wife Sue repeatedly asked me, "what do you want to do for your 40th birthday?" Immediately, I gravitated to some of those same popular golf destinations mentioned above. But eventually, my heart and head brought me back to Hundred Hole Hike and wanting to do something to raise awareness for the event in general and hopefully a lot of money for a worthwhile cause. Eventually, I had one of the single greatest moments of enlightenment in my 39 years and 4 months of existence: why not do both?
Today, I'm thrilled and slightly terrified to present the following...
Hundred Hole Hike
|The Hundred Hole Hike (HHH) is a national-network of golf marathons where participants plan to walk 100 or more holes of golf in one day in order to raise money for various worthwhile charitable causes. Please go to http://www.hundredholehike.com/ for more details.|
Chicago Public Course Rankings
One Divot at a Time...
My Course Rankings
2. Cypress Point
4. St. Andrews (Old)
5. Shinnecock Hills
8. Pacific Dunes
10. Friar's Head
Golf Blog 100
[Note: Rankings have been updated September 12, 2011 with feedback from an expert panel of a dozen fellow Chicago golf addicts.] We've...
The only time "Jim Colton" and "Ivy League" have been used in the same sentence. A quick detour from My Summer of ...
Last updated: February 5, 2011 Click links to find relevant blog posts. Rank JIM JEFE JIMBO 1. Ballyneal Pacific Dunes Royal County Do...
Here are some pics from Wednesday's golf marathon. It was a fun and memorable day. I didn't really know what to expect, but I k...
Below is a copy of a press release that our friends at Ballyneal sent out about The Ben Cox 108: HOLYOKE, CO -- On June 20...
Wegoblogger31 is a proud contributor to the new Golf Blog 100, which just launched its site and its ranking of the Top 100 golf courses in t...
Even now that the Ben Cox 108+ hole marathon is over, you can still donate now and get into the July 9th raffle. You just need to get you...
Warning: Wegoblogger Is An Extremely Difficult Blog Which I Recommend Only for Highly-Skilled Readers A promise to all of my loyal blo...
Watching the bloodbath that was Saturday at Augusta this year, I couldn't help but ask myself the same question that was going through m...
I'm going back to Bandon, To Bandon, To Bandon, I'm going back to Bandon... I don't think so. Two days ago, I had managed...
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The Ben Cox 108-Hole Golf Marathon
What: A 108-golf marathon to raise money for Ben Cox, a Ballyneal caddie who was paralyzed from a severe skiing accident in March.
When: June 22, 2011 (update)
Where: Ballyneal Golf & Hunt Club - Holyoke, CO
How to Give:
Send a check payable to: Prairie Home Baptist Church (memo: Ballyneal fundraiser)
P.O. Box 271
Haxtun, CO 80731
- Holyoke Enterprise: "Ballyneal member aims to help Cox family"
- Cybergolf: "Ballyneal Member Invites Others to Join 108-Hole Fundraiser"
- Omaha World Herald: Golf Notes (5/31)
- Radio interview on 104.3 The Fan in Denver (6/18)
- Colorado Avid Golfer: "Golfer's Charitable Marathon Could Get You on Riviera" (6/24)
- Golf Channel: "W18: Patience and Perspective" (6/27)
- Golf World Monday: "Marathon Man" (6/27)
- Holyoke Enterprise: "The Ben Cox 108 (give or take 47) climbs beyond $77,000" (6/30)
- Chicago Tribune: "All-day golf event raises more than $100,000 for paralyzed caddie" (7/8)