Since I came to the realization that my 2020 Fore Stories season was canceled I've been planning...knowing my journey has been stalled, but that doesn't mean I'm not thinking about getting out there. Over the last several months, while in the golf war room, I’ve been playing around with various weekend travel itineraries, tweaking locations, and finding hotels centrally located to the courses I plan to play in 2021.
One of the things I have been struggling with is where and when I should begin my 2021 journey assuming I can get back out in 2021. When I started this adventure I used the golf season, which for most of the US usually is March through October. This helps me compartmentalize the adventure. It basically shows me there is a beginning and an end, which forces a certain amount of limitations helping me map out where to play. As I look to March 2021 to begin season two of Fore Stories I’m having trouble deciding where to go. March in most of the US is still very winter-like, and lot’s of courses have not even opened up yet. Having lived on the East coast I’ve seen snow storms in April completely shut down courses for weeks at time.
Life on the West coast allows more flexibility, however, and because you all have read my blog posts, right... you know I’ve already played the two West coast golf courses that state the claim of the oldest golf courses
West of the Mississippi; Del Monte (CA) and Gearhart Golf Links (OR). I expanded my search by looking for old public golf courses in the other bordering states, Nevada, and Arizona, Nope. I took a peek at Washington state, nope. Any further East or North would bring late winter conditions to the golf courses. What to do? I decided I would try looking somewhere a little closer. I revisited Southern California, a place I searched before and didn’t find anything that met the criteria of the journey. I tried several different queries; "most historic courses", "top 10 oldest courses", "historic old courses", etc. It wasn’t until I put this into the search bar; “oldest public courses in southern california”. I hit enter and there it was right at the top of the search results.
That’s when I discovered another historic jewel on the West coast; Catalina Island Golf Course. The lesson here, try enough search and keyword combinations and you can discover a new golf destination. If all goes well I will be ferrying my clubs and I to Catalina Island in March 2021. Start making plans and I’ll keep you posted.
With all this searching, planning, and golf fantasizing, I have not been out to play. I may have been on a course 4 or 5 times this season, which is significantly lower than my normal 25 to 35 times a year. Maybe because I've not been playing recently, I have been thinking about losing myself in a total golf immersion experience. I think it would be cool to hide away at a golf academy for like 4 or 5 days. In my mind it would consist of hours of golf instruction, getting out to learn course management with a Pro, and recapping the day with fellow academy members. 100% geeking out on golf. After weeks of research it turns out Golf Academies are a bit out of my price range, but the good news is a Golf Academy experience has officially landed on my Golf Bucket List. I paused my research for a minute and realized it would be up to me to create my own golf immersion.
So I decided I would set aside 5 days where golf was my first priority.
I practiced, played and planned all things golf. For two days straight I went to my favorite practice facility at Paradise Golf Course and worked on chipping, sand saves, and hit 2 buckets of balls. I was there for three hours each day. It proved to be a great break from telecommuting, COVID, and just everyday thinking.
I locked myself in the golf war room for another day flushing out a TV show idea I have, and guess what, it’s a show about golf...weird. And get this, the Host of the show will journey to play the oldest public golf courses in the US...weird right??
After all this practice and creative development it was time to actually play a round, but where do I go. I wanted to get out of the house for a bit so I was looking for a unique location that might require an overnight stay. I was back to searching for the right experience and I finally found it in Corning, CA. I’ve been to Corning before, not for golf, but for Olives. Fun fact and if you didn’t know, Corning is the second-largest table olive processor in the world and the largest in the United States. I've been to the Olive Pit two or three times and I never knew there was any golf in the area, and during my online detective work I stumbled onto a 5 star reviewed course.
I booked a stay and play golf package at Rolling Hills Casino, which is host to The Links at Rolling Hills. As soon as my work day ended I headed out for a pleasant two hour drive with positive practice thoughts running through my head, and a clear itinerary mapped out for the following day. I arrived in the evening with no issues, got to my room, and it was time to execute the plan. First day: Go to Bed.
8:00am - Goal: Breakfast and Yardage Book
I took a short walk to the club house to buy a yardage book. I never get yardage books, but in the spirit of full immersion I thought it would be fun to study the hazard and lay up yardages on every hole while eating breakfast. I have to say, beside having to execute the right distances during the round this yardage book thing might catch on.
9:30am - Goal: Check in at the club house
I was walking up the stairs to the clubhouse at 9:24. Checkin was seamless and I picked up my two tokens for my medium bucket and headed to the driving range. This was something I was looking forward to ever since reading the reviews.
A good practice facility should have a grass teeing area at the driving range, check. A sand trap you can practice hitting out of, check, a chipping area, check. A practice putting green that accurately represents the greens on the course, check. By the way, the greens were fast… Also the sand trap area was so well manicured I didn't want to mess it up so I didn't use it. Loose, relaxed, and ready, it was now time unleash the thunder...
11am - Goal: Tee off
At 11:02 I was at the starter booth with my new golf friends for 4 hours; Bob and Kevin, and we were getting some last minute course notes; don’t drive the cart in the native grasses, don’t hit out of the native grasses, don’t look for your ball too deep in the naive grasses. Got it, stay away from the native grass. At 11:06 we stood at the first tee impressed with the view. This was a links course for sure, there was not a tree in sight, and the native grasses previously discussed were everywhere. A simple plan came to all of us at the same time, keep the ball in the fairway, which was wide and welcoming.
Bob (not me, the other Bob) teed off first. He hit a playable drive left just off the fairway. Kevin was next. He hit his drive just right of the fairway and was in good shape. I steady myself over the ball and proceeded to hit my drive straight, on the ground, for 15 yards. Yup, after 5 days and all the prep, practice, planning, and geeking, I hit a worm burner 15 yards in front of me. Why? I had a 15 yard walk to come to terms with this miscue and by the time I got to my ball I was fine, I pulled out my new 19 degree club and readied myself to fire the ball out into the wide open inviting fairway. I hit the ball straight, on the ground, for 15 yards. Why? Again I had another 15 yard walk to work this out in my head. Now standing 30 yards from the tee markers and some 500 yards to the green I decided to go with my 5 iron. I just wanted something I knew I could hit well so I could shake off whatever the golf Gods were putting into my swing. I lined up my shot, settled over the ball and took a very deliberate swing with a nice even tempo and I connected squarely. The ball rocketed forward . There we go, back on track. I turned to look at the flight of the ball just at the moment the ball collided with the force of Thor’s hammer into a 100 foot telephone pole about 60 yards on the right side of the fairway. The ball shot off the pole to the right and flew 100 yards into the native grass. Why? And who put a telephone pole in the middle of a links golf course, and why didn’t I see that large telephone pole when I was lining up my shot. Why?
I managed to regroup after the first hole and had a great time out there on this wonderful course. I hit one of the most purest 6 irons ever from about 165 yards out and the ball tracked the pin like it was laser guided. I found an extra 10 yards on my 8 iron, and yes, I even managed to get a few drives out 200 plus yards and in the center of the fairway.
Beyond the shot making I’m beginning to see the beauty in a links course. There are extreme contrasts throughout the round and everything can change from day to day. I find that there is a certain amount of freedom on a links course. When looking out to line up your next shot you can see everything everywhere, you feel like you’re sort of on a deserted island, and just feels like a deep cleansing breath.
After the round I bid my new friends farewell and we parted ways. As I made it past the club house I took one last look back at the course, nodded with approval, and readied myself for the inevitable departure from the full golf immersion.
See you on the course!