Tag Archives: Bruce Selcraig

Top 50 HQ Faces Further Layoffs

It has been a quiet summer at Catch Basin. The Top 50 staff — those who were not furloughed last spring — spend most of their time in the company cafeteria, sipping tea and reading technical journals. The place typically empties out by 3 p.m., the techies going to their second jobs in the fast-food industry, the golfers bussing out to 30th-ranked Hillcrest Country Club for a few hours of unsupervised recreation. The basement level of the Michael F. Bamberger Computer Center is a sorry sight; the Bomar Brain sits idle, surrounded by stacks of recycled fan-fold paper.

Pennsylvania Run GC

This demanding Kentucky course is mired at T51 in the Top 50 ranking. (John Garrity)

“It’s the worst I’ve ever seen it,” I told a local TV crew last night. “If we don’t get some meaningful data by the weekend, we’re probably gonna lose the whole season.”

Why sugar-coat it? It’s nigh on two months since Louisville’s Big Spring Country Club, site of the 1952 PGA Championship and the 2008 Rolex Writers Cup, crept into the Top 50. Since then, there has been absolutely no movement in the rankings. Every one of the thousands of courses we rate, right down to last-place Ft. Meade City Mobile Home Park Golf Course, is right where it was on June 24, when Big Springs replaced Pennsylvania Run Golf Course, Kentucky’s best clover-fairways layout, at No. 50.

“No change — is that even possible?” I asked one of our Cal Sci consultants, Prof. Amazon V. Hachette.

“It’s not just possible,” he texted back. “It’s very possible. You’re too young to remember, but there were whole decades when the course rankings didn’t budge. The Old Course at St. Andrews, for example, was number one for more than three centuries, and there was a week in the 1920s when everybody, for some reason, stopped playing golf.”

Comforting words. But as I told the good professor, quoting John Maynard Keynes, “In the long run we are all dead.”

Top 50 on TV: Nothing this week, but the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup Playoffs are underway at 51st-ranked Ridgewood Country Club in Paramus, N.J.

Meanwhile, our crack staff of second-raters continues to file reports, even if those reports don’t move the ranking. Our Heart-of-America man, Dr. Gary Abrams, performed an exhausting review of Hillcrest [Donald Ross] and 51st-ranked Swope Memorial Golf Club [A.W. Tillinghast] of Kansas City, Mo. “They’re featuring your Sports Illustrated story at Hillcrest,” Gary begins ….

I was pleased that the condition of the course was better than last year, and it’s still a classic and fun. Swope was amazing. Having not played there for many years, I was blown away by its immaculate condition — as good as any country club.  Uniform rough, great bunkers, greens were tiptop.  Wow.  Can’t wait to go back …. [Fourth-ranked] Prairie Dunes tomorrow …. Love to take you out to Shirkey Golf Club in Richmond, Mo. Think you’ll find it a “primitive” masterpiece.

Shirkey, designed by Golf Course Superintendents Association of America co-founder

Chet Mendenhall, received a 4-1/2-star rating from Golf Digest and is currently ranked No. 304 on our list.

Bruce Selcraig

Journalist/investigator Bruce Selcraig is a giant among links experts. (John Garrity)

And then there’s this from investigative reporter Bruce Selcraig of Austin, Texas, our chief links correspondent, widely-published writer and former staffer for the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations  …

Hey, John: Just played Narin & Portnoo Golf Club in County Donegal. Liked it a lot, never noticed that it was just 6,000 yds from the middle tees, only 6,200 from the tips. Lots of gorgeous holes, a huge beach the equal of Portsalon Golf Club’s. An unfortunate caravan park marring #17 and the first tee, but, you know, Loretta Lynn’s got to live somewhere. Fun, challenging.

Bruce adds, “Maybe I’m getting soft in my old age and declining stickhood, but I now think designers who put everything on mountainsides and don’t let you see a natural place for the ball to go are bozos, while designers who want their courses to please people for the next 200 years — Eddie Hackett! — are to be revered. Ahem.”

And this last bit from Bruce:

I walked onto the Old Tom Morris course at Rosapenna Golf Resort at 8 p.m. for some evening golf and had giant fun. Very traditional old links, flat mostly, surrounded by large dunes. The evening light made it memorable.

If you’re keeping score, Narin & Portnoo, Portsalon and Rosapenna’s Old Tom Morris course and Pat Ruddy-designed Sandy Hills links are currently ranked — some would say stuck —  at T117.


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Carne Chowder: Is It the Best?

No matter how carefully we police the collection of Top 50 data, shills for certain courses keep trying to influence the ratings. There’s “JH”, a Massachusetts businessman, who complains that The Country Club at Brookline deserves a ranking higher than No. 51. There’s a Philadelphia sportswriter — I’ll call him “Kernsie” — who pleads the case for 418th-ranked Stone Harbor Golf Club of Cape May Court House, N.J.  And if you’ll indulge my eye-rolling, there’s a reality-show “developer/statesman” who insists that his golf courses, all of them, are better than Pine Valley, Augusta National or Royal Portrush.

Hackett Lounge

Carneivores share recipes in the Eddie Hackett Lounge. (John Garrity)

And now a once-respected Texas journalist has turned to the dark side, wielding recipes in a sad effort to dislodge Askernish Old from the top spot. His name is Bruce Selcraig*, and his byline appears in all the top magazines. But he moonlights as a golf-course critic. If you’ve got a coastal property bigger than a fairground with dunes on it, Bruce has probably photographed it. If it isn’t fenced, he’s probably played it.

*Full disclosure: He’s a friend.

Anyway, Bruce is an admirer of the Carne Golf Links of Belmullet, Ireland. (As  are we. Carne has held the number-two spot since the Top 50’s inception.) He plays there so often that he’s on a first-name basis with the clubhouse and greenkeeping staff and with many members of the Belmullet Golf Club. It is Bruce’s practice, after a round at Carne, to send us an unsolicited report on the course’s myriad charms, leaning heavily on exclamation points and adjectives such as “dazzling,” “tear-inducing,” and “unparalleled.”

On Tuesday, however, he sent this: “I got rained and winded out of Carne this time, but had a hot chowder with Eamon [Mangan]. I have written him just now, but do you happen to know the recipe or main ingredient of [Carne’s] chowder, which I like far more than the milky white stuff at many courses.” Stymied by his syntax, he added: “???”

Recognizing this as a variant of the “milkshake ploy” — as in, “Castle Pines is the best course west of the Mississippi because of their amazing milkshakes” — I wrote Bruce back, explaining that my usual lunch at Carne was the tasty vegetable soup and brown bread.

He exploded. “You have NOT had the chowder? You elongated girly man from dubious BBQ territory!” Still working the food theme, Bruce provided a link to his freshly-written PostGame blog about the 8th-ranked European Club  in County Wicklow, which led off with the news flash that he had liked the salmon-and-prawn salad at Jack White’s Lounge & Restaurant.

Today, he raised the ante, writing, “This just in from Eamon … good luck,” followed by a document titled Blacksod Bay Seafood Chowder Recipe. The recipe began, “Make fish stock from shellfish shells & white fish bones, e.g. monkfish, cod, etc. Don’t use oily fish. Sweat off 1 diced onion, one head celery, 3 leeks chopped, 2 diced carrots …. And that’s as much as I’ll share, because the recipe was signed by Carne’s head chef (and 2005 Irish Chef of the Year) John Conmy, and I’d rather not have to defend a recipe-infringement suit.

Selcraig knows that. He sent the recipe because he thinks it will tip the clubhouse-food metric in Carne’s favor and put the Mayo links ahead of Scotland’s Askernish. To which I publicly say: “No way.” The Top 50 algorithm treats unsolicited course evaluations as corrupted data —at least until the best minds at Cal Sci figure out how to digitize monkfish-bone scores.

So Carne, even if it rules the chowder rankings, is still the runner-up among courses.

As for that BBQ crack, Bruce knows that Kansas City holds six of the top ten spots in the latest World Barbecue Ranking, while Texas’ top joint limps in at No. 14. And that’s a fact.


CordeValle: Wining, yes. Whining, no. (John Garrity)

Top 50 on TV: They’ve had record crowds this week at the Frys.com Open, thanks to the Top 50. The host venue, the CordeValle Resort Golf Club, debuted at No. 50 in June of 2010, and has since soared to the 49th spot. Lured by our reports of oak-studded foothills, sprawling vineyards and soaring sycamores, Tiger Woods made a rare fall appearance. Was he impressed? Can’t say, but he decided to stay for the weekend.

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