Trip to Vermont and New Hampshire

Back a couple weeks ago, I finally worked out a time that Tony Pioppi and I could play. The capstone course of the day trip was Hooper, ranked the seventh best nine hole course in North America in Tony's book The Finest Nines, available here. From there, I found three other nine hole courses in close proximity to Hooper. One of them was discarded because of time constraints. On the day, we played Bellows Falls, Hooper, and Pine Grove Springs.

Bellows Falls was fantastic. Tony is vigorously researching as I write this to find out who designed the course. Whoever did the design knew what he or she was doing. The first two holes are incredible holes. I'm trying to remember if I've ever played two opening holes as good as these; I can say with certainty that the opening two at Bellows Falls are better than the opening two at Bethpage Black. The course could handle a bit of work, not even something a course architect would be needed for, just an expansion of mowing lines, a little tree thinning, and a good aeration/topdressing of the greens. That said, the course is stellar. Common statements during the round were "whoever designed this knew how to build golf holes" and "how has no one ever told me about this place?" It's not often that a true gem can be found by chance, but it certainly happened here. Full review forthcoming.

Hooper was the capstone course in the trip and did not disappoint. All the holes are good holes and the round works up and down, with easier shots followed by difficult shots. The opening par 5 is a fantastic hole. Well placed shots can give an excellent opportunity for birdie to start off the round. The holes have great variety, very long par 4s and short 54s, a good spread in yardage on the par 3s, and solid variety on the two 5s. This course was just purchased by a new owner, hopefully he can do some good work with the course. This is certainly a nine hole course worth a significant trip to see. Full review forthcoming.

Pine Grove Springs...Hole 1 and hole 9 are good holes with really good greens. The turf on the greens here was the best of the three courses we played. I don't want to write a mean-spirited review, so I'll just leave this one here.

Hooper was the best of the trip, but, in my opinion, not by a wide margin. Bellows Falls was very good. I asked Tony on the 8th tee if Bellows would be an honorable mention for his best 25 if it goes for a second addition or even in the top 25. I have not played all the courses, but I will say that I certainly think Bellows Falls is better than one of the courses on the list that I have played. Fantastic courses and a great trip. Oh, and the BBQ joint in Brattleboro, VT, Top of the Hill Grill, has decent pulled pork, good ribs, good brisket, and stellar scenery. Eat there. Great trip...Bellows Falls, Hooper, and Top of the Hill, I'd do that again.


Bethpage (Yellow) - Farmingdale, NY

Easily the 3rd Best at Bethpage, which is a pretty good compliment give the quality of the Red and Black courses. It's not far behind the Red in terms of quality and far, far superior to the Blue or Green courses. The first hole is very wide off the tee and has a centerline bunker about 200 yards from the tee. I'd almost call this a Bottle hole, but the preferred angle to the green is from the wider side of the fairway rather than the narrow, more difficult side. The 5th hole is also very interesting in that the fairway slopes sharply from right to left at about 200 yards from the tee and then the green is elevated about 20 feet above the fairway. The 11th hole is a very cool short par 3, topping out at just over 300 yards, the fairway pinches in significantly at around the 200 yard point (note the abundance of hazards at 200 yards from the tee...the course was built in the early 20th century and has remained fairly original) and leads to a very good green. The highlight of the course, however, is the set of par 5s. It's not often that a course can be said to be highlighted by par 5s, but certainly that is the case here. Holes 7 and 17 both dogleg to the left, but they are far from the same hole. 7 plays downhill off the tee and level to the green. 17 plays through a valley, but the landing area for the fairway is at the same level as the tee. Both holes are fantastic and both right at the reachable in 2 range. The 10th hole is the other par 5 and is a real 3 shot hole. Both the tee shot and second shot must be played with precision to have a good 3rd shot. The hole is a double dogleg, playing right off the tee and then left back to the green. The green is on the same level as the fairway, but 50 yards short of the green leading up to the front edge, there exists a significant valley that can make the third shot very difficult. This is certainly not a hole where the second shot is just "another" shot to be blasted at. Overall, I'd actually say that this set of par 5s is the best set on all the courses at Bethpage (consider on the Red course, the 5th hole is incredible, but the 16th hole is, quite frankly, just bad. Then, on the Black course, the 4th hole is world class, and could be better, but 7 is very average and 14 is just a mundane slog). I love the Black course, but this course is really, really good.

Variety of Design: Par 5s have good variety in yardage, one is reachable in 2 with a decent drive, one is on the edge even with a good drive, the other is outside the range to be reached in two. Par 4s have relatively good variety, ranging from 429 to 313 in yardage from the back tees. The par 3s have less variety in yardage, only spanning 166 to 188 yards. For variety in direction, 4 holes dogleg right, 4 holes dogleg left, and 7 holes are straight. (That adds to more than 14 because the 10th hole is a double dogleg) Solid. 6 out of 10

Flow of the Course: Course flows well. Difficult holes are generally followed by holes where the player can have a bit of a break. No abrupt changes in the course. 6 out of 10

Course Conditioning: Solid. A few small patches here and there with bare spots. Overall, OK. 5 out of 10

Walkability: Easily walked. Has some small hills but nothing that would make for anything really difficult. 8 out of 10 

Atmosphere: None. In fact, almost a negative number. Bethpage is very unique, but on busy days, the Yellow and Blue courses can be like zoos. 1 out of 10

Total Score: 55 out of 100. Easily the third best course at Bethpage and probably a better value for the money than the Red course for out of state visitors. 


Course #250

A few weeks ago I was able to play my 250th different course. I was fortunate to play at St. Catherine's Golf Club in Canada, which was also my first course outside the US. In keeping with the post that I made after #200, Let's look at some stats and interesting tidbits.

From Course 100 to Course 200 took less than 3 years, from 200 to 250 took 4 years and 9 months. So I'm playing new courses at a slower pace, several reasons for that.

Played 2 new courses in one day: 11
Played 3 new courses in one day: 2
Played 4 new courses in one day: 1 (no change, this is a difficult feat)

Colors: Silver, Emerald, Gold, Scarlet, //Red, Black, Blue, Green, White

Water features: Creek, Bay, Harbor, Brook, Lake, River, Bayou, Loch, //Spring

Land features: Park, Banks, Shoreline, Point, Hills, Landing, Farms, Ridge, Hollow, Meadow, Plantation, Farm, Mountain, Valley, Canyon, Trails, Dunes, Beach, Isle, Shores, Dunes, Pit, Forest, //Trail, Shore, Dale, Cove, Orchard

Plants and natural objects: Pine, Cypress, Rock, Palms, Stone, Sage, Azalea, Peach, Dogwood, Oak, //Magnolia, Marshwood, Cedar

Animals: Rockfish, Hummingbird, Eagle, Quail, Fox, Bear, Raptor, Rooster, Callippe, Horse, Moose, Fish, //Shark

 21 States, 2 nations

Courses beginning with every letter in the alphabet other than X, Y, and Z. (No change)