Tag Archives: New Richmond Golf Club

Minnesota Doctor Questions Our Picks

Thoughtful readers of this blog sometimes submit their own, personal golf course rankings, which — while not scientific — provide some perspective on my more authoritative list. Here’s a recent submission from Minnesota’s Dr. Mark Mammel:

John: Just perusing your top 50 list after reading your commentary on the recent Askernish Open.  Lists are always fun, and, of course, debatable.  Just for bona fides, I’ve played 21 of the 50; I’ve been a member at Royal Dornoch for 20 years; I grew up in Hutchinson, KS, and took my first golf lessons from Ross Wilson, long-time pro at my first “home” course, Prairie Dunes; and I love- LOVE- Askernish. So I hope you’ll just give my comments a thought before clicking “delete”.

First, Castle Stuart above Royal Dornoch? Seriously, that’s just not on.  I played at CS the year it opened and a couple of times since. Lovely clubhouse, nice folks, overpriced, so-so turf, and if a part of the rating is the story the walk tells — well, heading out from the first tee at Dornoch is Dickens. Castle Stuart is Barbara Taylor Bradford. Please rethink this one!

As a Minnesota boy, I’ve payed New Richmond a number of times.  While perfectly OK, it’s not great, and I don’t see how it made the cut.  Interlachen rests on its laurels — or should I say lily pads? When the Donald Ross Society paid a visit to the area, they played at Minikahda, Woodhill, White Bear Yacht Club and Northland. I was the local tour guide, and when I suggested adding Interlachen, the Society’s leaders felt it to be a poor representation of Ross that, due to trees and change, deserved a pass.

Which leads me to a serious question: how is it possible that the White Bear Yacht Club isn’t on this list?  A Willie Watson/Donald Ross design, it’s quirky, the greens are wild and wonderful, and it is a great walk (perhaps Jules Verne). Tom Doak rates it the best in Minnesota and Jim Urbina thinks it’s one of the best anywhere. If your raters haven’t seen it, I am the local historian and current golf chair. Love to welcome you anytime! Similarly, Northland in Duluth is also a real treat and might make the cut. Finally, you rank Monterey Peninsula CC at 46 — which course, Dunes or Shore?

I salute you as a fellow obsessive. Enjoy your travels and play away please.


Lavatory view from men's loo.

Castle Stuart’s 9th green, as seen from the clubhouse lav. (John Garrity)

Dr. Mammel is an astute observer, and he certainly knows his golf grounds. It’s possible, though, that he doesn’t have hundreds of course raters at his disposal. It’s even more likely that he hasn’t played his favorite courses in ALL conditions, which we strive to do. Castle Stuart, for instance, may not at first glance be better than wonderful Royal Dornoch, which has stood the test of time. However, his dismissive “lovely clubhouse” ignores the fact that Castle Stuart has the best lavatory/shower views in golf (see photo). Furthermore, I have found Castle Stuart to be playable — even fun! — in 60-mph winds, while Dornoch ceases to be amusing at 35-plus.

As for the great-walk factor, I have to point out that while Charles Dickens may be the best-selling novelist of all time, we don’t use 19th-century sales figures at Catch Basin. Barbara Taylor Bradford beats Dickens like a drum in this century; she’s sold close to 100 million books worldwide, and her first novel, A Woman of Substance, is one of the top-ten best sellers of all time. Furthermore, she’s the 31st wealthiest woman in Britain, while Dickens is … dead. Have I read any of Bradford’s books? No, but why would I? I’m busy rating golf courses.*

*Jules Verne, by the way, didn’t put much store in walks, great or otherwise. He was more into submarines and moon rockets.

New Richmond golf

New Richmond not worthy? Augusta National would kill for tulips like these. (John Garrity)

The high ratings for New Richmond and Interlachen make sense to anyone who has read my near-best-seller, Ancestral Links: A Golf Obsession Spanning Generations. Coincidentally, my maternal grandfather, although a cad, was an Interlachen member, and my dad witnessed Bobby Jones’s famous lily-pad shot. Also, my dad helped construct the original New Richmond nine, a sand-greens layout.

As for 51st-ranked White Bear Yacht Club, I can only say that it won’t take much to boost it into the Top 50. In fact, I can pretty much guarantee that White Bear will make the grade if I accept the good doctor’s offer of a free round. (That is the offer, isn’t it?)

Finally, Dr. Mammel asks which of Monterey Peninsula Country Club’s layouts is ranked 46th — the Dunes or the Shore? To which I reply: Does it matter? Beautiful views, either way.

Top 50 on TV: Nothing this week, as the FedEx Cup Playoffs take a week off to blunt fan interest. However, the battle for “higher status” on the post-Q-School PGA Tour will certainly make the Web.com Tour’s Chiquita Classic must-see TV.

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Climate Change Forces Golfers to Adjust to Lesser Hues

AUGUSTA, GA. — You’ve no doubt heard that unseasonably warm weather in the South has forced Masters officials to dump truckloads of ice on their azalea beds to keep the famous shrubs from blooming prematurely. This may or may not be true. I was going to walk out to Amen Corner yesterday to find out, but it was too damn hot.

Masters Week

Augusta National's par-3 course, famous for its horticulture, may not be as bright this week. (John Garrity)

The meteorologist at our Kansas City headquarters, meanwhile, reports that spring is a month ahead of schedule. The dogwoods, redbuds and crabapples are already dropping their blossoms, and the Top 50 staff, in my absence, spend their afternoons sipping cabernets at sidewalk cafés on the Country Club Plaza. My imaginary friend Bert, who runs a snow-blower concession, says that sales are flat. “I’m a global-warming denier,” he says, iPhoning from the sixth hole of Donald Ross’s Heartland Club (No. 45). “But I don’t deny that the world is getting hotter.”

Bert is my imaginary friend, but I’m not afraid to tell him that he’s a dope. “The world IS getting hotter,” I tell him, “but you’re confusing weather with climate. The scientifically-measured increase in global surface temperature since 1980 was roughly a half-degree Fahrenheit, and if the most dire predictions of climatologists come true, it could rise another 4 to 10 degrees degrees by 2100. This abrupt warming could have a catastrophic impact on the planet, melting the polar ice cap, flooding highly-rated links courses and diverting the Gulf Stream, which would turn continental Europe into a year-round skating rink. But that’s CLIMATE. You’ll still have unseasonably cool summers and unseasonably warm winters. That’s WEATHER.”

Snow on Japanese golf course

The cherry blossoms have yet to bloom on Japanese courses. (Courtesy of Duke Ishikawa)

As proof I sent Bert the latest dispatch from our chief Asian correspondent, Duke Ishikawa, who reports that Japan’s cherry-blossom season is on hold. “We really had a cold winter this year,” he begins.

Enclosed several pictures from Suwako CC in Nagano Prefecture. One thousand meters above sea level. Many courses still closed, but Suwako opened on April 1. In two weeks, they shoveled almost a foot of snow. These pictures are evidence of it. This is why our professional tour cannot start this season until after the Masters.

Suwako, Duke points out, is near the Karuizawa 72 course, site of the 2014 Eisenhower Trophy competition (barring the onset of an ice age).

This talk of azaleas and cherry blossoms is not peripheral to course ranking. Many of the Top 50 courses are currently swathed in spring colors, from the dogwoods of 42nd-ranked Hallbrook to the wildflowers of second-ranked Carne. Here’s Duke again on the Japanese golf landscape:

We have a gorgeous cherry-blossom season from the end of March to early April (normally). That’s in the Tokyo area. Our island is longer than 2,000 kilometers, so the cherry-blossom season moves from south (Okinawa) to North (Hokkaido) with a front line of rising temperatures. We call it sakura zensen. (Sakura is “cherry,” zensen means “front line.”) The cherry trees usually keep one week of bloom in each area, so it is a very short moment. We made it a symbol for the Samurai who had to commit hara-kiri suicide in front of his boss after making a mistake. (Please don’t laugh.)

Some of our golf courses have one thousand cherry trees. With more cherry trees in the hills around, it makes us all pink. I occasionally send pictures of this to my fairway ladies, Louise Solheim and Barbara, whose husband is Jack.

Again, it is a great time of year. Sincerely, Duke

New Richmond Golf Club

The New Richmond Golf Club rivals Augusta National for spring coloration. (John Garrity)

Several of the Top 50’s course raters are licensed botanists, so I had them compile a spring-colors Top 5 from the current ranking. Here it is:

1) New Richmond Golf Club, New Richmond, Wis. (132.6)

2) Augusta National Golf Club, Augusta, Ga. (128.8)

3) Augusta National Practice Range, Augusta, Ga. (127.1)

4) Askernish Old, South Uist Island, Scotland (124.0)

5) Mid Pines Resort and Golf Club, Southern Pines, N.C. (123.9)

Top 50 on TV: The Masters (CBS).

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Top 50 Magnate Enjoys Monterey


MPCC member Steve John demonstrates the balanced finish. (John Garrity)

Rating courses need not be a tedious, joyless process — “a good walk spoiled.” I try to set an example for my course raters by leaving Top 50 headquarters from time to time to play golf on the world’s finest layouts. That was the case last week when I squeezed in a few rounds on the Monterey Peninsula while attending the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links.* Two of the courses I played are in my recently-updated Top 50, and the third, Preserve Golf Club of Carmel, Calif., is No. 51 with a bullet.

*Our panel of experts is still reviewing Graeme McDowell’s slapdown of Ernie, Tiger and Phil to see if Pebble’s No. 7 ranking needs to be re-evaluated. We will examine Woods’s complaint about the greens (“The holes weren’t cut where I rolled my putts”) and Dustin Johnson’s observation that “the second hole has too many left-handed bunkers,” and if we reach a consensus, we’ll post it.

Tuesday morning’s round at magnificent Monterey Peninsula Country Club, No. 49, was arranged by Sports Illustrated senior writer Alan Shipnuck and MPCC member Steve John. The foursome consisted of myself, John (not myself), SI senior writer Damon Hack and Stephanie Wei, author of the popular “Wei Below Par” golf blog. None of us, I’m happy to report, hit a bad shot all day.

Stephanie Wei

Body English works! Wei's shot wound up 12 feet from the hole. (John Garrity)

We played the Shore Course, which was recently restored to the three-course rota of the AT&T National Pro-Am at Pebble Peach, and I share the opinion of the pros who played it in February: The Shore is a definite upgrade from unranked Poppy Hills Golf Course and a worthy successor to scenic Cypress Point Golf Club, No. 13. In fact, the only explanation I can offer for its 49th-place ranking is a prohibited payoff from partisans of the nearby Spyglass Hill Golf Course.*

*Payments to my course raters are not tolerated. Inducements to me are reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

Halfway House at MPCC

MPCC's halfway house: Golf's best snack-bar view. (John Garrity)

To cite just one example, the view from the halfway house at MPCC is second-to-none. The snack bar itself — manned, I believe, by a winner of Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen reality show — is currently No. 14 on the Junk Food Network’s America’s Top Frankfurters list. (My hot dog came split and grilled on a buttered-and-toasted bun. Magnifique!) Best of all, the grill man packed our sandwiches in seagull-resistant cardboard carriers that fit perfectly into the dashboard compartments of our golf carts. As a result, MPCC gets 180 bonus points for its cypress trees and an additional 50 points for the halfway house.

Top 50 Note: Last week, the USGA announced that it had awarded the 2017 U.S. Open to Erin Hills Golf Course of Erin, Wisc. I am head-over-heels happy for the co-designers, my good friends Michael Hurdzan, Dana Fry and (especially) Golf Digest architecture editor Ron Whitten, who proved that writers can hold their own against the top designers when given an adequate budget and unlimited authority. But I don’t understand how a new golf course, which just recently broke into my top 100, got the Open over perennial Wisconsin trendsetters Whistling Straits, No. 18, and New Richmond Golf Club, No. 25. I’m not crying foul, but I invite David Fay & Co. to consult me before they extend any more invitations to untested golf courses. (Keep the faith, Medicine Hole!)

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New Richmond GC Moves Up List

It is a good nine months since Sports Illustrated senior writer Gary Van Sickle called Wisconsin’s New Richmond Golf Club “the Augusta National of small-town courses,” but praise for the Willie Kidd/Don Herfort design has not abated. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune hails New Richmond’s semi-private Old Course as “perhaps the greatest relatively unknown public course near the Twin Cities,” and Cowboytuff gives it a four-star rating on golflink.com. Now the Little Course that Could has put a move on Wisconsin’s other nationally-ranked track, the Straits Course at Whistling Straits, by moving up to No. 25 in the Top 50.

New Richmond Golf Club photo

"Springtime for Littler" -- the 1st tee at New Richmond GC (John Garrity)

Some will find the comparison to Augusta National Golf Club, No. 2, a stretch, but I have recently played both New Richmond and the National, and found each to be evocative of the other. Both, for instance, are famous for their plantings. Flowering trees frame their greensites, and each presents a variety of flora calculated to send the hearts of botanists racing. (“Driving down Magnolia Lane melts down your spikes,” Greg Norman once said. “You can’t tee off quickly enough.”) The two clubs also have three- or four-hole stretches known as “Amen Corner” — although New Richmond’s is pronounced AH-men by some of its members.

You get religion a little earlier in the round at the Wisconsin course. New Richmond’s most challenging stretch, holes 4 through 7, is anchored by the 406-yard, par-4 fifth hole. A classic floodplain hole — lined with pines and firs on the right and defined by the sinuous Willow River and a marsh on the left — the fifth calls for a thread-the-needle drive and an over-the-water mid-iron past a couple of top-heavy trees eager to lean in the way of perfectly hit approaches. Van Sickle, when asked to compare New Richmond’s signature hole to the lakeside par-4 16th at nearby Hazeltine National Golf Club, said, “I suppose you could compare them….” — and Johnny Miller once called Hazeltine’s 16th “probably the hardest par 4 I ever played.”

I could go on listing the similarities between Augusta National and New Richmond, but I’d rather point out the most significant difference: Their pedigree. The Georgia course started out as a nursery and was nannied to greatness by the regal combination of Grand Slam champion Bobby Jones, legendary course designer Alister MacKenzie and imperious club chairman Clifford Roberts. New Richmond’s stunner had more modest beginnings in the Coolidge-era* as a 9-hole, laid-out-on-a-weekend, concrete-tees-and-sand-greens golf course. In fact, my father** used to call his home-town nine “the worst damn course in the whole state of Wisconsin.”

*Donald Reppe’s The New Richmond Golf Club: A History dates the club to 1924, based upon recorded deeds, diaries and the memories of old timers. Today’s club members, however, wear caps with “Founded 1923” printed on the side, and certain Web sites give 1922 as the inaugural year. (Warren G. Harding, 29th president of the United States, served from 1921 until his death from a heart attack on August 2, 1923.)

**John B. “Jack” Garrity, grew up in New Richmond, helped build the original sand-greens course, and was one of the club’s most avid members in the late twenties. His own monograph, “Remarks and Reminiscences on the Founding of the New Richmond Golf Club,” was excerpted in the Oct. 2007 issue of Travel + Leisure Golf.

Falling to No. 29 is the Pezula Golf Club of Knysna, South Africa.

Top 50 on TV: Nothing this week, but Hall of Fame golfer Annika Sorenstam has signed an agreement to design a championship course for the Olivion Golf Resort in Belek, Turkey. Olivion will be Sorenstam’s first course design project in Europe, her ninth worldwide, and the first to be named for “the powerful being” in a juvenile novel by a writer employing capital letters for his last name. (See “CLE, Troy.”)

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Island Greens: Time to Drain the Moat?

The debate over island greens has raged for three decades. The argument started in 1982, when Alice Dye unveiled her bulkheads-in-the-swamp design for the par-3 17th at the Tournament Players Club of Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra, Fla. It grew in intensity when Alice’s husband Pete surrounded his own version of sod a l’leau with boulders at the PGA West Stadium Course in La Quinta, Calif. It reached a fever pitch when developer Duane Hagadone and architect Scott Miller planted the 14th green at Club Coeur d’Alene on a 7,500-ton barge and set it adrift on a glassy lake in Idaho.

But now that an oil slick the size of Donald Trump’s ego has hit the Louisiana shore, the debate should end. Island greens are a bad idea.

This will not be news to current or former PGA Tour players, who have suffered the most extreme humiliations trying to land their tee shots on the original island green at Sawgrass. “When I play that hole, I don’t know whether to genuflect or spit,” says Brandel Chamblee, analyzing this week’s Players Championship for the Golf Channel. Chamblee echoes the sentiments of 8-time major champion Tom Watson, who after his first exposure to the TPC of Sawgrass asked, “Is it against the rules to carry a bulldozer in your bag?”

Granted, island greens appeal to the eye. My all-time favorite is — or rather, was — the notorious “Jaws” par-3 7th at Stone Harbor Golf Club in Cape May Court House, New Jersey.* Jaws featured a boat-shaped green flanked by toothy island bunkers, separated from the putting surface by narrow moats. The designer, Desmond Muirhead, said he was inspired by the story of Jason and the Argonauts, with the boat-shaped green representing Jason’s boat and the jagged bunkers representing the blue rocks thrown down by the gods to crush the boat.

*I use the past tense because Stone Harbor’s members — stung, perhaps, by my droll critique of the hole in America’s Worst Golf Courses — destroyed Muirhead’s inspired design and replaced it with a conventional island green.

But aesthetics and playability issues aside, island greens suffer from erosion, mould, wharf rats and bad drainage, require Army-Corps-of-Engineers-scale infrastructure to ferry players and caddies to and from the putting surface, and raise the risk of involuntary baptism by forcing players to chip or putt while balanced on slippery timbers. It’s no coincidence, I think, that the current Top 50 recognizes only one course with an island green.

Downpatrick Head

The island-green 17th at Downpatrick Head, Ireland. (John Garrity)

I must add, however, that I have a soft spot for the island-green 17th on yet another Pete Dye track, the Pete Dye Challenge at Mission Hills Country Club, Rancho Mirage Calif. I registered my only hole-in-three there some years ago, holing out a re-teed range ball after drowning my 8-iron tee shot near the pilings. Fred Couples duplicated my feat during the 1999 Players Championship, gaining greater-than-deserved attention because he covered the same distance with a 9-iron.

I can also appreciate the need for water around the green on the par-5 18th at the adjoining Dinah Shore Tournament Course, No. 44. Without the moat, LPGA players celebrating victory by leaping headfirst off the final green would break their lovely necks.

Top 50 on TV: Nothing this week, but last Saturday was Demo Day at the New Richmond Golf Club, No. 29. A half-dozen equipment reps hawked their wares on New Richmond’s Top 10-quality driving range while I sat at a table and autographed copies of my latest book, Ancestral Links: A Golf Obsession Spanning Generations, in a three-club wind. Space does not permit a full report on “The Augusta National of Small-Town Courses,” but on the basis of my most recent round I will be very surprised if New Richmond doesn’t move up in the next Top 50 ranking. Watch your back, Pacific Dunes!


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