Natty Twice!

 I never thought I'd see the day...I get to play National Golf Links of  America twice in one summer.

Okay, the lyrics need work. But that doesn't change the fact that I got another chance to play the National this past week, a.k.a. the greatest golf course that I've ever played. After a second go 'round, I can't help but think of the words of the great KRS-One: "I'm still #1!" Those lyrics work just fine.

Looking back's crazy to think that I'm almost passed on the opportunity to play CB Macdonald's masterpiece again. For most of the latter half of July and beginning of August, I sat in my home office wallowing in self-pity and was stuck in a existential (my favorite word in the English language, although I'm still not exactly sure what it means), post-marathon and post-Ballynizzle Cup defeat funk. I was done for the year, by far the earliest in the season that I had hung 'em up. When my good buddy Matt mentioned that there might be an opportunity to fill out the foursome at NGLA, I initially passed.

But in the words of John Popper (with creative license), "The Alps brings you baaaack!"

A few weeks back, my friend and golf writer Tom innocently asked me a question about the playing characteristics of the famed 3rd Hole at National for a piece that he was working on. I was slightly perplexed and deeply perturbed that I couldn't give him a good answer, largely because the first time I played the hole back in June, I hit my drive about 50 yards left of left, and had to play the hole up the hill from near the 4th green.

That darn 3rd hole stuck in my craw for days. As did many of the other wonderful template holes - Redan, Road, Bottle, Punchbowl, etc. I thought to myself, "How many times are you going to play this course in your lifetime? Strap on a sack and get back out there, you idiot!" I went crawling back to Matt and a couple e-mails later, I was confirmed in. Natty twice!

Check out the pictures below.  What a perfect way to cap off what has been the best golfing year of my life. Unless, of course, there's a Natty Thrice sometime in September or October (anybody?)

Here's the bell behind the Alps green. Matt should've been the one to gong it, as he birdied the hole. Wow, what a hole to birdie. I did successfully hit it in the right side of the fairway, but hit a low skunky approach shot out to the left (a common theme on this day) and made bogey.

The greatest Redan hole in the world. What did I say my lifetime record is on redans last time? 0-for-102? Well, it's 0-for-103 now.

Short. The 6th hole.

Matt was in New York for a weeklong binge with two golf friends from Japan, Yuji and Toshi. Matt met them about 6-7 years ago at Portmarnock while on a solo trip to Ireland. Imagine this because I've know you've been there - cruising through the course playing as a single, when you reach a par 3 occupied by some Japanese golfers who are waving you up to join them. Do you join them? Do you try to play through? Do you hang back and play 2-3 balls for the rest of the round? Matt ended up agreeing to join and got a couple lifelong golf buds out of it. It turned out they had very similar itineraries for the rest of the Ireland trip and agreed to meet up at various points down the road. And they've been going on yearly golf trips to great courses around the world nearly every year since.

I had heard all about Yuji and Toshi and their adventures from Matt and was anxious to meet them (from Yuji, I found out that the name Jim means "from zero", which sounds about right). I knew they were extremely passionate golfers, and the shared love for the game would be enough to overcome any cultural or language barriers. What he failed to mention was the fact that they were legitimate sticks -- Yuji a steady 3 and Toshi a +1 index. Their straight and solid games were in stark contrast to the hack and slash style of their American counterparts. Our U.S. vs. Japan fourball match was a lot like the Womens World Cup finale, if that soccer match had ended at halftime by slaughter rule. Toshi made four birdies on the front nine of shot 2-under 34 on the front. The picture below shows the "Road" on the 7th hole...if you look closely you'll see Toshi and my golf balls right next to each other. Toshi calmly blasted out to 10 feet and made the birdie putt. I skulled my shot over the green and made the last of five straight dumb bogeys.

8th Hole - Bottle. Hard to choose a favorite hole here, but this would be one of the contenders.

 Master Yoda has seen a lot of golf courses in his 800+ years, but nothing as good, as National is.

Yuji hitting out of the Strath bunker on the 13th hole. I birdie this one from just past the pin. After a par on the 14th, I was a respectable +6 with just 4 holes to go. Let's just leave it at that.

Matt hitting out of the swale on Punchbowl. My drive is up on top of the hill. Yes, I made bogey.

The home hole. Just a wild, big and brawny par 5 finish. I haven't quite figured this hole out.  Maybe next time?

If you look closely or zoom in on the pic, you'll see a black Ferrari as the rightmost car in the parking lot. Normally straight-ball hitting Toshi pushed one way left and missed that car by mere inches, one hopping it off the parking lot.

Bonus Pics: Shinnecock!

As an added bonus, here are some pictures from an afternoon at next-door neighbor Shinnecock Hills. No, I didn't get to play it, but with the afternoon free I was able to tag along while the others played. I even caddied for Matt for most of the round, broadening my work experience just in case I get laid-off in the upcoming recession. The clouds gave way in the late afternoon, and it was a beautiful day for golf. As you can see from the pictures, the course was very green from recent torrential rains (8-10" in one day), which made for great contrast to the oranges and purples of the deep fescue.

3rd hole

7th Hole - Redan. Let's just assume I would've missed it. 0-for-104.

9th Hole. I hope I get a chance to meet this Ben Nevis character. I'd like to shake his hand. Starting from the 9th hole on, is there a better golf course on the planet than Shinnecock Hills?

10th Hole. The picture doesn't do the fall and rise justice.

11th Hole. This is the hole that was stuck in Matt's head for the last two months. Great short par 3.

12th Hole.

13th Hole.

14th Hole.

15th Hole.

16th Hole. Matt made a mess of this hole after being in a good position off the tee again. I'm sure he'll blame his caddie, who talked him out of laying up. However, I sort of made up for it by ramming in a 25-footer with Matt's right-handed putter as he raked the bunker (at the time this made sense, trust me.) I guess I did get to play Shinnecock Hills. How many people can say they aced the par 5 16th?

17th Hole.

5th wheel or starting center?

Shinnecock surpasses Ben's Porch as best place to sit and have drinks as the sun is going down.

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  1. Anonymous said...:

    That pic of Shinnecock is breathtaking. I hear from many it is the more beautiful course. Leaving aside the history and CBM affiliation with that National: which do you prefer?

  1. steve said...:

    Yuji and Toshi need to make a team appearance at the Yucca next year. Hopefully, I meet them someday because I love Japan and would make more of an effort to get back there.

    And if anyone deserves to place NGLA twice in one year it is you my friend.

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