Tag Archives: Hillcrest Country Club

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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Ross Course Captures World’s Attention

“What’s the hottest course on your list?” asks a reader from Oatmeal, Texas. The answer, I discovered after tapping a few keys on my Bomar Brain, is Furnace Creek Golf Club of Death Valley, Calif., where summer temperatures top out at around 130 degrees with overnight lows of 100. That’s one reason why Furnace Creek has never cracked my Top 50.

Hillcrest's 2nd hole

Hillcrest’s No. 2 is sometimes mistaken for Pinehurst No. 2, but there is a significant difference in elevation. (John Garrity)

“Let’s face it,” writes the author of the 1994 best-seller, America’s Worst Golf Courses, “on any list of potential golf course sites, Death Valley — at 214 feet below sea level — has to be near the bottom.”

Ask any blade of grass. Summer soil temperatures at Furnace Creek reach 200 degrees: good for baking brownies, but not much help to turfgrass. Perversely, winter temperatures in Death Valley dip well below freezing, nudging the Bermuda grass greens and fairways into dormancy. Rainfall? Less than two inches a year. In these conditions, even sand traps don’t survive. The local sand is so high in mineral content that it hardens like concrete when wet; imported sand blows away in the Valley’s furious windstorms. Consequently, all the bunkers on this desert course are grass.

Furnace Creek’s course rating, according to AWGC, is 67.4. Its USGA Slope? “Pretty much uphill in every direction.” “– And by ‘hottest,’” my desert correspondent continues, “I mean ‘trending’ — as in Billboard’s ‘with a bullet’ designation for songs moving fast up the charts.” This is an example of a reader wasting the Top 50’s time. Was I supposed to read the entire email before answering the question? That’s like asking the dock hand if you can jump the narrow gap to the ferry as it’s pulling away, adding that while you look out of shape now, you were a high-school hurdler and occasional ballroom dancer, and even now you can probably …. oops, too late. But we are here to serve, so I’ll answer the question. The Top 50’s trendiest course is Hillcrest Golf & Country Club of Kansas City, Mo. In the past couple of months, Hillcrest — a 1916 Donald Ross design — has catapulted from 42nd to 30th in the ranking, pushing it past better-known Ross masterpieces such as  Mid-Pines Inn & Golf Club (No. 32), Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club (No. 42), and 51st-ranked Pinehurst No. 2, site of the upcoming men’s and women’s U.S. Opens. The Top 50 isn’t alone in singing Hillcrest’s praises. Last week, Sports Illustrated devoted four pages and the talents of esteemed golf photographer Kohjiro Kinno to a Hillcrest feature titled BACK ON COURSE. (“Once given up for dead,” reads the subhead, “a challenging Donald Ross layout in the heartland is thriving again.”) SI singles out Hillcrest’s “infamous 1st hole, a 243-yard par-3 that Ray Floyd once called the toughest opening hole that he had ever played.” Also mentioned: the fact that Arnold Palmer once went around Hillcrest in 83.* “Every so often,” SI’s man writes, “I am reminded that Ross courses are widely revered …”

They’re not all masterpieces, and some of them have had mustaches painted on them by posterity, but playing one of the 399 courses attributed to Ross is like fingerpicking a vintage Martin guitar. Something of the designer is inevitably expressed, something sings … and you don’t need a lot of talent to appreciate the craftsmanship.

How true! On the strength of that paragraph alone, I and the entire Top 50 staff promptly signed up to receive the new SI Golf+ Digital e-magazine, which is free to humans and delivered weekly via email, app or Golf.com. *Full disclosure: I wrote the story.

Top 50 on TV: Nothing this week, but the above-mentioned Pinehurst No. 2 will hog our screens for the next fortnight. No. 2, too, has gotten the attention of various Sports Illustrated platforms. You can start with photographer Bob McNeely’s black-and-white renderings of the Bill Coore/Ben Crenshaw course tweaks in the SI Golf+ U.S. Open Preview. I also recommend the June issue of GOLF Magazine, specifically the comprehensive U.S. Open preview section (“Why Pinehurst Will Be the Toughest Venue Yet”), which includes a clever send-up of Phil Mickelson tournament coverage (“Tomorrow’s News … Today!”)** You’ll split your sides with laughter. **I wrote it.

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Shoulder Pain Benches Top 50 CEO

“There are many rumors circulating on the internet regarding your shoulder injury,” writes a Top 50 fan from Sequoia Heights, Fla. “The silliest so far blames frozen golf balls, but Drudge is peddling some conspiracy theory going back to your college-radical days at Stanford. I’m guessing you’re keeping mum on purpose, to drum up more publicity. Am I right?”

John Garrity

Top 50 Founder and CEO John Garrity (right) at Madrid Central Station before his injury. (Photo by Edoardo Molinari)

Van — may I call you Van? — you couldn’t be more right. When I saw how much attention Tiger Woods gets for his career-threatening injuries, I decided to milk my recently-torn labrum for all it’s worth. Here’s how it works: Whenever a fellow journalist asks me why my right arm is dangling like an adventitious prop root, I smile enigmatically and walk away. This has gotten me front-page coverage in more than a hundred newspapers and three different citations on Bill Maher’s HBO program.

Frankly, it’s too easy — which is why I’m calling an end to it right now. Here’s the complete story, as revealed in my exclusive interview with Sports Illustrated senior writer Gary Van Sickle:

Q: Do you, in fact, have an injured shoulder?

A: Yes.

Q: Which shoulder?

A: I … [unintelligible] … agreement that we wouldn’t talk about that. You [redacted] only when ….

Q: How did you hurt it?

A: Actually, that’s kind of a funny story. In February, we had a brief thaw in Kansas City, so I went out to play a few holes at [42nd-ranked] Hillcrest. It was a breezy day, temperature in the fifties, the sun popped out now and again. However — and this makes me laugh ‘til my arm hurts — I didn’t consider the fact that my bag, and the golf balls in it, had been stored in an unheated garage at Catch Basin.But I noticed that none of my shots were flying more than a few feet off the ground — even the wedges! Naturally, I tried to hit them harder, but I got the same results. It wasn’t until I plopped three balls onto the iced-over pond on No. 14 that it hit me: I was playing with frozen golf balls! Hilarious, right? The next morning, of course, I woke up to the sensation of my shoulder caught in a bear trap.

Q: Your right shoulder?

A: Listen, if you’re going to [redacted] this bull—- [unintelligible] ….

Q: Fine. I’m out of here.

A: [Unintelligible] Right shoulder, yeah.

Q: What are you doing in the way of rehab?

A: I’m working with a trainer/therapist at my local 24 Hour Fitness. Most of the exercises involve gentle stretching to the sound of snapping ligaments and ripping muscle fibers.

Q: Is this your first shoulder injury?

A: No. Ten or fifteen years ago I shredded my left rotator cuff in a putting accident.

Q: A what?

A: I was playing [51st-ranked] Haig Point with some SI colleagues. What happened was, my cart was parked just off the green, so I was pulling my putter out of the bag while starting to walk toward my ball. Unfortunately, the putter grip got caught between some other shafts and didn’t clear the top of the bag. I called attention to it by screaming and falling to the ground.

Q: Did you finish the hole?

A: I think I’ve said enough on this subject.

Q: What impact will your injury have on Top 50 operations? Will course rating continue?

A: Of course not. You and the rest of the staff are furloughed until further notice.

Q: Well, [redacted] you. [unintelligible] …

A: My pleasure, Gary.

Top 50 on TV: Nothing this week, but the Arnold Palmer Invitational Starring Adam Scott is being played at 51st-ranked Bay Hill Club and Lodge in Bay Hill, Fla. Tiger Woods withdrew early in the week, sidelined by persistent back pain, and former Masters champ Bubba Watson withdrew after a first-round 83, citing allergies.

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Links Mag Ranking of Golf Resorts Lacks a Certain Precision

“Have you seen the Fall issue of LINKS?” asks a reader from Arrow Rock, Mo. “They’ve got a Top 25 list of the world’s best golf resorts, and their list is alphabetical. What do you think of that?”

Cordevalle golf

California’s Cordevalle Resort will need more than roses and an RTJ Jr. golf course to climb in the Links Magazine ranking. (John Garrity)

Here’s what I think of that: It’s dumb. You can’t have a top-25 list with a 26-letter alphabet. That’s unfair to Zoute, Belgium, home of the Harry S. Colt-designed Royal Zoute Golf Club, and even more unfair to China’s Zhuhai Golden Gulf Golf Club, which features 27 holes designed by Colin Montgomerie. It would have been better for Links to use the 18-letter Hawaiian alphabet — especially since their list includes two Four Seasons Resorts (Hualalai and Lanai at Manele Bay), the Ritz Carlton Kapalua Resort and the St. Regis Princeville Resort.

Actually, closer examination reveals that their alphabetical list is simply a presentation device, not an actual ranking. And they’ve left themselves plenty of wiggle room by playing around with the resort names. The Resort at Pelican Hill rightly follows Pebble Beach and Pinehurst on the Links list, but had they shortened the name of the luxe Newport Beach, Calif., hideaway to “Pelican Hill,” it would have overtaken Pinehurst, alphabetically speaking.

Despite its obvious shortcomings, I sent the Links resort rankings downstairs to Owen Upshot, our director of opposition research. Owen worked on it for a couple of days and came up with a true alphabetical ranking of the resorts, based solely on the hard data supplied in Brian McCallen’s supporting article. Here are the results:

1. The letter “F” (Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge; Fancourt South; Four Seasons Resort Hualalai; Four Seasons Resort Lanai at Manele Bay; Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita) 5.00

2. The letter “R” (Resort at Pelican Hill; Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain; Ritz-Carlton Kapalua) 4.00

3. The letter “B” (Bandon Dunes Golf Resort; The Boulders Resort; The Broadmoor) 3.00

T4. The letter “G” (The Greenbriar; The Gleneagles Hotel) 2.00

T4 The letter “I” (Inn at Palmetto Bluff; International Casa de Campo) 2.00

T4. The letter “P” (Pebble Beach Resorts; Pinehurst Resort) 2.00

T4. The letter “S” (Sea Island Resort; St. Regis Princeville) 2.00

T8. The letters “A,” “K,” “L,” “O,” “T,” and “W” (The American Club Resort; Kiawah Island Golf Resort; The Lodge at Kauri Cliffs; One & Only Palmilla; Turnberry Resort; Wynn Las Vegas) 1.00

That leaves 13 letters on the outside looking in. (Are you reading this, Mauna Lani? Are you planting another rank of rose bushes, Cordevalle? Are you happy, Homestead?) Or if they aren’t looking in, they must at least be considering name changes. How about The Fabulous Nemacolin Woodlands Resort? Or The Renowned Eseeola Lodge at Linville Golf Club.

Meanwhile, The Top 50’s inaugural ranking of golf resorts is in development here at Catch Basin. I can’t give you a date for its release — there’s been an unexpected glitch in the Bomar Brain’s addition software — but I promise you this: There will be no alphabetical ranking or similar cop-out. Our ranking will be precise to the fourth decimal point.

Hillcrest No. 2

Missouri’s only Donald Ross course brightens up every fall. (John Garrity)

Top 50 on TV: Nothing this week, but congratulations to 42nd-ranked Hillcrest Country Club on last week’s member/guest tournament. The celebrity-laden field included former NFL Pro-Bowl receiver Carlos Carson and our own Atlantic Coast Ratings Coordinator, Dave Henson. Seeing Hillcrest’s rising and plunging fairways for the first time, the perspicacious Henson said, “I can see why they call it Hillcrest.”

That’s why we pay him the big bucks.

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KC Pro Fights for Hillcrest Ranking

“Hey, John,” writes Kansas City club pro John Bozarth. “When we get the ninth green finished here at Hillcrest, will we move up in the Top 50 list?”

Hillcrest's 9th green

Richard III wasn’t found under the tailings of Hillcrest’s old 9th green — just a lot of ribbons and rice. (John Garrity)

Bozarth is referring to the original Donald Ross green at 45th-ranked Hillcrest Golf Club, a three-time PGA Tour venue. Several years ago, a club executive decided that Ross’s green would produce more revenue as a wedding bower, situated as it was close to the clubhouse and parking for tin-can-festooned getaway cars. Dimly aware that golfers would still need a place to hole out before moving on to No. 10, the executive installed a new ninth green of dubious merit — a small, sticky putting patch fronted by a bunker and a stone wall.

Ross promptly shifted in his grave.

Since 17-½ holes falls just shy of the accepted standard for championship play, Hillcrest no longer evokes comparisons to Ross’s more-famous parkland courses, such as Chicago’s Beverly CC, Atlanta’s East Lake GC, and Rochester’s 51st-ranked Oak Hill CC, site of this summer’s PGA Championship. But Bozarth assumes, with logic on his side, that the restoration of Hillcrest’s once-great ninth hole will put his track back in the national picture.

“I would at the very least like to go ahead of the other course listed from the Kansas City area,” Bozarth writes.* “What is the criteria for choosing the ranking? Is there a way to influence that decision, like free fountain drinks, or maybe a season’s supply of tees? Or I could let you use my covered cart when it is cold. Well, I think you can see where I’m going with this.”

*The “other course” would be Tom Fazio’s 42nd-ranked Hallbrook Country Club, one of the midwest’s most challenging layouts and home course of Tour Tempo pioneer John Novosel, co-author of Tour Tempo 2: The Short Game and Beyond. 

Bozarth is a friend, so I know that his wink-wink, nudge-nudge is merely his way of acknowledging the incorruptibility of the Top 50 ranking. (It’s all science here at Catch Basin. A season’s supply of tees doesn’t even move the needle.) But he’s not crazy for supposing that Hillcrest will move up when the old ninth green is put back in play.

That new fleet of golf carts won’t hurt, either.

Top 50 on TV: Ninth-ranked Pebble Beach Golf Links swept defending champ Phil Mickelson off his feet today at the AT&T National Pro-Am. (Those rocks are slippery.) Meanwhile, the postman just delivered a book by Oliver Horovitz called An American Caddie in St. Andrews: Growing Up, Girls, and Looping on the [16th-ranked] Old Course. I enjoyed An American Caddie in page proofs some time back, but it’s possible that Gotham Books has trimmed it to appeal to the bridal-shower crowd. I’ll read it again and let you know.

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Carne Golfers Enchant New Yorkers

“I understand your persistent cheerleading for Hillcrest/Kansas City,” writes a deep-sea fisherman from St. George, Utah. “Who wouldn’t get behind the only Donald Ross course in Missouri? Your recent endorsement of my neighboring Sand Hollow is also easy to understand, although its cliff’s-edge fairways are a bit too close to the sun for this old sea dog. But you’ve made little mention lately of your second-ranked course, the Carne Golf Links. Have you run out of things to say about Ireland’s most rugged and scenic seaside course?”

The 16th at Carne is more than just a gateway to the infamous par-4 17th. (John Garrity)

The 16th at Carne is more than just a gateway to the infamous par-4 17th. (John Garrity)

Great question, Ahab. In a word, yes. I wrote a long Carne feature for Sports Illustrated Golf Plus back in ’03. Four years later, after a lengthy sabbatical in County Mayo, I spewed a 135,000-word manuscript about Eddie Hackett’s glorious links track, mixing in just enough of my own colorful biography and tangential musings to keep things interesting. That book — Ancestral Links: A Golf Obsession Spanning Generations — has led to an endless cycle of interviews, lectures and appearances at motivational seminars, at which I perform rhetorical cartwheels on behalf of my favorite course.* So yeah, I’ve run out of fresh things to say.

*Carne, I should emphasize, is my favorite course worldwide of all the courses I had no role in designing. I consider myself a co-creator of top-ranked Askernish Old (although I am quick to acknowledge the contributions of Old Tom Morris, Gordon Irvine and Martin Ebert), and so I rarely describe it as my “favorite.”   

Fortunately, I can always dip into the Top 50 in-box for a Carne update. Just the other day, for instance, New Yorker David Brennan submitted a glowing report. “I read your book a few years ago,” Brennan writes, “and thinking of it this summer, I chose to read it again …”

It is a wonderful story, well told. Your portrayal of Belmullet and Carne enticed me to suggest the book to one of my friends who travels annually to our home in Pallaskenry, County Limerick, from where we strike out to play golf with two other friends against a fourball of Irish lads. We have been doing this for about 12 years (we all live in the NY area) and have played much of the southwest of Ireland during those trips. Of late we have played Lahinch, Ballybunion (7) and Doonbeg, regularly losing our annual match with the Irish at Lahinch. Losers — that would be us for all but one year — pay for dinner at Vaughn’s, a fine seafood pub in Liscannor between Lahinch & the Cliffs of Moher.

My wife Deirdre, who does not golf (she rides horses instead), read and loved your book. When one of our regular travelers dropped out of this year’s trip, she suggested that I call Carne to ask if any of the characters from the book would make up our fourth. I called the office, and when I mentioned your book I could sense a smile at the other end of the phone. After explaining that one of our fourball had dropped out, and that the other three had all read the book, I asked if it would be possible to play with any of the people featured in the book, such as Seamus Cafferky or Eamon Mangan, Terry Swinson, Chris Birrane, etc. “John” patiently listened to my inquiry and suggested that I send an email, which I did. Hearing nothing back, I figured they took us for crazy Yanks.

To my delight when we arrived (after losing our match with the Irish the prior day), the lady in the office said that Eamon wanted to say hello. Almost immediately thereafter we met Chris and had a great chat with him. As it turned out, Eamon played 18 holes with us, throughout which he told great Eddie Hackett stories and explained much of the course as we walked. When we spoke of our obsession with No. 17 (long before we saw it), Eamon smiled, shook his head and said “Garrity.” He then asked if, after our round the following day, we’d like a tour of the new 9!

Our first day was quite misty, and though we couldn’t see all the views, we saw what a wonderful course it is. The next day was brilliant sunshine, and the views to Achill Island, the clear blue water on white sandy beaches, and the amazing layout were as you described so well in your book. When we arrived at 17 we each had three balls ready,* but when we had good drives (relative to each of our games) we chose not to risk ruining our fairway lies with a second shot. On the first day, Howard, our best golfer (8 handicap), just missed a birdie putt that, had he sunk it, Eamon said he was going to take Howard up to the office and “call Garrity.” (Your description of Eamon as one who never appears rushed but who accomplishes more in a day than anyone else in a week is perfect.)

*Why three balls? Read Ancestral Links and you’ll understand.

The next afternoon, Eamon met us at 18 and drove us around the new 9 in his Jeep. The new 9 looks amazing. That par 3 is stunning.  We stayed at The Talbot, which was great fun and as good a place as any we have stayed. Next year we hope to be there for the opening of the new 9, and if so perhaps we could meet.

Your book inspired one of the most memorable trips of my life. Carne went well beyond our expectations. Years ago I read Dermot Healy‘s book, Goat Song, and ever since I’ve been fascinated with the descriptions of Belmullet. When I read your book I knew someday I would get there. Ancestral Links made me feel as if I knew everyone. I loved the Eddie Hackett chapters. A fine mix of memoir, history and golf. I loved it. Beyond the golf and the wonderful memories of your mother, father and brother, your fascination and attraction to Ireland is something I share. I love traveling Ireland, reading its history, great fiction writers and playwrights. Playing golf there is just different than anywhere else. My grandparents came here (America) and never returned, so my own discovery of Ireland came through my wife, who spent summers on a family dairy farm in Beale, next to Ballybunion.

I just wanted to thank you for such a treat, introducing us to Carne as told through the story of your family. If you get to New York, please let me know. We’d be delighted to host you for a meal.

I have David’s permission to share his moving report, and I thank him for that. Meanwhile, I’m acting on my own authority to boost Carne’s Cal Sci Algorithm score from 9.75 to 9.77.

The Old Course will be a little less old when renovations are completed. (John Garrity)

The Old Course will be a little less old when renovations are completed. (John Garrity)

Top 50 on TV: Nothing this week, but the St. Andrews Links Trust and the R&A have disclosed that they are making a few renovations to the 16th-ranked Old Course — “renovations” being the word we like to use when we’re caught trying to escape the Road Hole Bunker with the aid of a 200-metric ton front loader. Gadfly blogger and author Geoff Shackelford and Top 50 architect and author Tom Doak (Pacific Dunes, Ballyneal, Cape Kidnappers) are apoplectic over the changes, and the twitterverse has produced myriad versions of the “mustache on the Mona Lisa” trope. GOLF Magazine’s Travelin’ Joe Passov is much less alarmed (“Much ado about nothing”), but GOLF’s Alan Bastable reports that St. Andrews residents are dismayed that construction started with little public notice. The Top 50 will reserve judgement until our course raters have conducted a full site inspection, but here’s what I tweeted when the news broke:

John Garrity @jgarrity2

@michaelwalkerjr Mona Lisa’s mustache was on Da Vinci’s original sketch; sacrificed for condos and water feature.

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Hillcrest Holes: As Remembered Or Not?

Bill Amick, as befits a recent winner of the American Society of Golf Course Architects’ Distinguished Service Award, wasted no time in responding to my post about 45th-ranked Hillcrest at Heartland GC.

You can’t know what a relief it is for me to read your latest blog with assuring evidence that the The Earlier Donald’s #9 green is being at least semi-restored at Hillcrest. I want to repeat what I’ve said to others about that course being truly outstanding. The way Ross utilized the rolling contours for great holes always made it a pleasure for me to visit. He seemed somewhat of a Picasso in that dirt.

Hillcrest's 14th green

The 14th at Kansas City’s Hillcrest: Who built the wall? (John Garrity)

But my closing question about Amick’s 1984 renovation work — How about it, Bill? Do you still have the blueprints? — left the Florida-based architect at a loss.

Certainly, I still have the plans for all the greens I redid there, just as I have all the course drawings I’ve ever prepared. They are safely in rolls in correctly-labeled slots. My only problem is that I have trouble remembering where the cabinets of those drawings are located. But that is no surprise, since after long flights from overseas I can hardly recall the city and house I live in.

I asked about Amick’s blueprints in the context of Hillcrest’s par-4 fifth hole, which I have come to admire for its understated difficulty and purity of form. But it was actually the par-3 fourteenth that made me want to rummage through his rolled-up construction drawings. That’s because my childhood memories of Hillcrest don’t include a water hazard.* Today’s Hillcrest, of course, has this very attractive water hole with reeds guarding the left side and a stone wall serving as a decorative bulkhead.

*My memories of some Hillcrest summers don’t even include water. Drought and a lack of fairway irrigation left some fairways as firm as sidewalks. I hit my first 300-yard drive when I was 12.

Amick didn’t need his drawings to confirm my memory of a waterless par 3.

Yes, I am to blame for the pond fronting and siding #14 green. But not the stone wall. I didn’t want to risk giving the great Ross indigestion, even in his grave.

Amick’s fourteenth, even with the mischievous masonry, is markedly superior to the original Ross par 3. Positioned as it was, well downhill from the clubhouse, Ross’s hole turned into a lake during downpours and was susceptible to erosion. Amick fixed that without changing the essential character of the hole. I’m sure Ross, after a hearty dinner in his grave, would approve.**

** “Within a couple of hours after fourteen was reopened from construction,” Amick recalled, “a member holed his tee shot there. Now that’s what I call proof of true reward over risk.”

Amick concluded with a plea to “please keep us sports fans informed about the new/old #9 green at Heartland GC. That should be another stone in the wall of progress for a great course.”

Top 50 on TV: Nothing this week, but Ian Poulter won the WGC HSBC Champions on the 51st-ranked Olazabal Course at Mission Hills Golf Club in Shenzhen, China. The course is actually a Schmidt-Curley design, but the developers named it for the Spanish golfer because it’s fun to hear the Chinese pronounce “Olazabal.”

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