Tag Archives: Glen Echo Country Club

Top 50 Transparency Praised by Founder

A reader from Stone Harbor, N.J., asks if we conduct our course ratings in secrecy. “Do you travel under aliases? Do you inform a course’s staff that you are evaluating their facility and plan to publish an assessment that could be damaging to their reputations and bottom line? Do you go about your business whistling with a smile* while actually twisting your knife in the backs of honest businessmen who are merely trying to provide fun and recreation?”

* This is anatomically impossible, unless you whistle through your teeth; but we do try to project a certain cheeriness.

The e-mail is signed “Diogenes,” so I assume the writer is Greek. And before I address the substance of his letter, I’d just like to say how sorry I am about his country’s sovereign debt crisis and for the shocking deterioration of the 7th-ranked Parthenon and other public buildings. Things look bleak, I know, but a century or so of austerity should square the Greeks’ accounts and get them back out on the golf course.

Anyway, Di asked about “secrecy.” My answer is a flat “No.” We don’t sneak onto golf courses in Zorro masks and capes, and we don’t hide our clipboards and cameras in gym bags. To the contrary, the arrival of a Top 50 rater tends to be a civic happening replete with bunting, ceremony and intemperate drinking. It’s the democratic nature of the Top 50, in fact, that makes it so much fun. What other course-rating system has gallery members draw lots for a chance to evaluate the par-3s? Who but the Top 50 would let the head pro appeal for a better score in return for logoed caps and golf balls?

Besides, if we snuck in and out of venues, would we get so much publicity? Not to be immodest, but my recent rating trip to England got almost as much media attention as the Open Championship at 186th-ranked Royal Lytham & St. Annes. First it was Sports Illustrated’s Alan Shipnuck, who took participatory journalism to a new level by following me around 17th-ranked Royal Birkdale dressed in my clothes. (“If you can learn about someone by walking in their shoes,” he said afterwards, “it has to be even better to walk around in their baggy polo shirts and Dockers.”) Shipnuck’s reverential report can be seen here.

Michael Bamberger

SI’s Michael Bamberger followed our Top 50 rater at St. Annes Old Links. (John Garrity)

Also following me at Birkdale was Michael Bamberger, author of To the Linksland and inventor of the E-Club. In appreciation, I let him rate the 200-yard fourth hole, where each of us missed an ace by a matter of inches. (“Challenging to the extreme,” he concluded, “but brilliant!”) Bamberger then popped up a couple of evenings later as I rated St. Annes Old Links (49). He wrote about it for Golf.com, as did Golf Digest’s Cameron Morfit, whose astute critique of St. Annes can be read here.

To sum up, the Top 50 — far from being secretive — is the most transparent of all the leading course-rating systems. Diogenes may not accept that, but I infer that he’s bitter about some perceived slight or life-destroying tort that he associates with golf course critics. That’s unfortunate, but it has nothing to do with us.

Unless, that is, he is referring to our sister company, America’s Worst Golf Courses (LLC).  Our AWGC raters do conceal their identities, and they usually prevaricate when asked why they are dipping test strips into the ball washers or taking core samples from the greens. “When things get hairy,” I tell them, “it’s best to lie.”

Different company, of course.

Glen Echo's 14th hole

Would Glen Echo’s “Dewdrop” par 3 present a challenge to modern Olympians? (John Garrity)

Top 50 on TV: Nothing this week, but the London Olympics reminds us that golf returns to the Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in the summer of 2016. That should focus attention on 51st-ranked Glen Echo Country Club of St. Louis, Mo., which was an Olympic venue in conjunction with the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. I played Glen Echo some weeks ago and found it to be in tip-top shape and fully capable of hosting the Olympics again, should the Gil Hanse-designed Rio course be thwarted by local politicians. (Glen Echo still has a commuter line running alongside its first hole, so transportation will be a snap.)

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Partisan Rancor Over Azalea-Free Masters

The electronic mailbag overflowed in response to my Masters post asserting that man-made climate change has so thoroughly jumbled the seasons that spring golf is no longer possible. “You must have been smoking those cherry blossoms,” suggested a reader from St. Petersburg, Fla. “I just drove through two feet of snow to get to Walmart. Global warming is a proven hoax.” A reader from Peculiar, Mo., sent me a crude pencil drawing of blooming redbuds captioned, “Everything’s NORMAL in Peculiar.”

I certainly didn’t intend to wade into one of our era’s most contentious issues. In fact, I’ve purposely downplayed the subject. Last summer, for instance, I redacted a line in a course review that alluded to “crocodile sightings” at Nebraska’s Awarii Dunes. More recently, I rejected a developer’s ad for “Gulf-view lots on the Arkansas coastline.”

But not all the mail came from so-called “deniers.” Several Irish golfers pointed out that a month or so of the Celtic winter seems to have relocated to June-July, making September the most summery month. That followed an e-mail from Dubai insisting that the desert has swallowed up whole golf courses, including Al Ruwaya, a highly-touted Tiger Woods design.

Listen, folks, you’re barking up the wrong, climatically-distressed tree. The Top 50 blog is a politics-free zone, a refuge for golfers escaping the drudgery of the Drudge Report or the sluttishness of Slate.com. Rest assured, if I spot a hoodie-wearing penguin seeking the services of a cross-dressing abortion provider at a radical mosque in my predominately-white Kansas City neighborhood, I’ll keep it to myself.

That said, this is what 50th-ranked Glen Echo Country Club looked like when I played there last week:

Glen Echo CC

Spring lingered last week at Glen Echo Country Club in Normandie, Mo. (John Garrity)

Top 50 on TV: Nothing this week, but the Valero Texas Open is at the TPC San Antonio, where John Novosel Jr. and I performed a Tour Tempo segment for a not-so-long-ago episode of “Champions Tour Learning Center.” (That’s your cue to break down the door of your favorite e-book store for a copy of Tour Tempo 2: The Short Game and Beyond, by yours truly and John Novosel Sr.)

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