On the tail end of our Bethpage Binge, The Scrambler (Kevin Lynch) and I had the opportunity to play two links-style courses in eastern New York. When I say links style, I don’t mean a cutesy place with the word “links” in its name, nor do I mean a place that plants some thick fescue or overwaters its fairways. Tall Grass and Union Vale are two courses that, for the most part, approximated everything you watched for four days from Royal St. Georges.
What I’m talking about, ironically, is often mocked and scorned in western New York. Golfers in these environs think that lush and green and soft and moist (still talking about golf here) are characteristics of an ideal golf course…NO! Go to a local muni whose watering system broke two months ago and you’ll find what I love…fast and firm, firm and fast. When you are 150 yards out, every club in the bag is in play, from long putter to bunted three-metal. At Tall Grass and Union Vale, I often turned to Kevin and asked “how far?” He’d say “145 yards, that’s your eight iron, right?” and I’d answer “Not today!” and proceed to hit a half-seven iron that landed 25 yards short of the green, bounced left, turned right, scuttled along the ground and came to a halt some 20 feet from the hole.
I’ve had the good fortune to play two Scottish links in my life (the New and Old courses at St. Andrews) as well as three courses at our American linksland in Oregon, Bandon Dunes (I’ve played Bandon, Pacific and Trails.) What I had at Tall Grass and Union Vale reminded me so deeply, so passionately of those other experiences, that I simply had to interrupt the Bethpage reminiscences, wonderful as they continue to be, to let you in on my secret.
So grab your sticks tomorrow and head for the hardest, brownest, most burned-out course you can find. Abandon the clouds and set your sights on the soil…play two balls when no one’s looking and watch those suckers bound along the ground, up to the hole. And feel like Darren Clarke felt in Sandwich, England.