The Poconos region follows the trace of the Delaware River from north to south, until the river continues south near Stroudsburg. The region itself heads southwest toward Jim Thorpe, Pennsvlvania. By the time you reach I-81 to the west, you’ve left the region. 2012 makes two trips to the Pokies that I’ve taken and brings the number of golf courses played to 8 (there will be two replays this week.) I’ll try to bring you up to speed with pithy monologue and pictures doing the talking. Expect an update of the day’s play each evening or thereabout.
Monday: Jack Frost National Golf Club
Fast Tracks~Designed by Terry LaGree, 2006 | 5 Tee Decks, from 5129 to 7256 yards
What I Liked & Remember~Mr. LaGree, like A.W. Tillinghast before him, found a way to identify locations for great and dramatic par fives, as well as broken (or in this case, wetland) ground on which to sight his par three holes. As a result, the carries over wetlands, for the most part, are given with a caveat: you get to tee the ball up perfectly! The other element of LaGree’s architecture that I find transcendent is his sense for green design. LaGree was not afraid to return to the Golden-Age notion of large, segmented putting surfaces. His greens at JFN often have a lower/hidden sectin, in which a terrific, dramatic and challenging hole location might be utilized. I suspect that those who grow up on, or practice regularly on, the greens and surrounds at JFN will become practitioners of well-honed short games.
Tuesday: Buck Hill Golf Club
Fast Tracks~Designed by Donald J. Ross, 1918. 4 tee decks | White Nine, 2701 to 3380 yards; Blue Nine, 2597 to 389; Red Nine, 2480 to 2884
What I Liked & Remember~Buck Hill Golf Club, at least on the two nines I’ve seen (White and Blue) demonstrates that position off the tee and position into the green can be dictated by topography. A course with fairways that elevate just as the drive zone is reached (killing momentum and the extra roll yardage) is the match for technology’s best effort. I suspect that BHGC could scare golfers away from the game forever if it decided to shave the greens to a 12 on the stimpmeter. Oh, one other thing! At BHGC, you encounter many greens that appear to slope up from front to back, yet are influenced more by the lay of the land. As a result, they are quicker uphill than down.
Wednesday: Shawnee Inn
Fast Tracks~Designed by A.W. Tillinghast, Bill Diddle, 1919 on, 3 Tee Decks | Red Nine~2838 to 3362 yards; White Nine~2586 to 3227; Blue Nine~2812-3438
What I Liked & What I Remember~Shawnee’s 27 holes break down to 24 on the island and 3 on the mainland. When on the mainland, no cell service. Island is closer to Jersey, so you get cell service. There are some wickedly cool greens at Shawnee, but there are a few that would benefit from some tree removal. Don’t see how they survive with no sunlight and no air transfer. Shawnee is a beautiful, bucolic respite from anyone’s real world. For a flat island, the architects found a way to incorporate rolls, knolls and bowls to effect some really challenging traces from tee to green. If you like your par 3s and 5s, this is the place for you. I don’t remember more than 6 or 7 par fours over the 18 holes we played, and some of those are of the drivable variety.
Thursday: Woodloch Springs
Fast Tracks~Designed by Rocky Roquemore, 1992. 5 tee decks | 4773 to 6579 yards
What I Liked & Remember~The first thing that you must do upon checking in at Woodloch Springs, is purchase a yardage book. There are three reasons: the scorecard has no map, the tees have no hole routings and the golf course works its way up and down hills, through fairway necks and toward greens with tier upon tier upon tier! I have a suspicion that 2nd-play scores on this course drop like no other. I had 87 from the tips, with no fewer than 6 double-bogeys. The doubles were 100% attributable to lack of course knowledge. So trust me->Purchase that course guide!
Woodloch Springs was in marvelous shape the day we played. The course never lacks for interest and offers incredible vistas and carries, should you challenge the tips.
Friday: Mount Airy Resort
Fast Tracks~Designed by Hal Purdy, 1972. 4 Tee Decks | 5284 to 6580 yards
What I Liked & Remember~You probably don’t know a Hal Purdy course, unless you’ve played a good bit in New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania. The land that Purdy was given to create this course offered numerous challenges: ascents and descents of tremendous angle; ponds, forests and wetlands around which fairways navigate; the demands of a resort clientele. Mount Airy lines up with yesterday’s course, Woodloch Springs, as one of those courses that will bite you the first time you play, but will decrease in challenge (or is it uncertainty?) each successive time.
There is a bit of inconsistency at Mount Airy, but nothing that would keep me from returning. For example, I was never certain how a well-struck approach would react to the green~some held while others shot forward another 20-30 feet. In contrast, the greens putted true on all occasions; the influence of topography versus green slope often made break interpretation a challenging undertaking. The course begins with three difficult holes, each demanding diverse shots; with no practice range or warm-up green, give yourself a break as you traverse this section of the course.