Following my round at Victoria National I was on the road again to make the five-hour drive to Columbus, Ohio. The first four hours were smooth sailing. As I drove through Louisville I thought back on the “Battle in the Bluegrass”. Crossing the bridge over the Ohio River as I approached Cincinnati I thought the Camargo Golf Club and my options for playing the course. While continuing through Cincinnati heading to Columbus, I reconnected with an old college roommate whom I hadn’t spoken to in almost 40 years.
As I was driving through Tennessee on the previous day in route to Evansville, Indiana I had passed through Chuck’s home town. I pulled over at a service station went online and within a few minutes I’d found a phone number that was possibly his. I knew I had the right number when the person who answered the phone said, “hello this is Sheri.” Chuck’s high school sweetheart’s name was Sheri. I told her who I was and probably spilled the beans on a secret that Chuck had kept for 40 years. I said, “this is Jimmie, I helped Chuck write some of those love letter you received from him over 40 years ago.” I was so happy to hear that Chuck and she had gotten married after he graduated. Theirs’s is a wonderful love story.
Sheri told me that Chuck was traveling but that she would get in touch with him and let him know that I called. He called me back the next day when I was about an hour and a half away from Columbus. We went down memory lane and relived some of our most memorable times as college freshmen asserting our independence. Chuck is now a pilot for United Airlines. We determined that since I’d flown from Chicago to points in Asia several times, it was likely that I’d been on one of his flights.
Our walk down memory lane was interrupted by a dashboard indicator light in my rental. A tire was losing air pressure. Chuck and I would have to pick up our conversation later, I had a flat tire.
I pulled off to the side of the road and I called National Car Rental Roadside service. They informed me that it would take an hour to get someone to my location. I had to wait, I’d think it would be safe to change a tire on the side of an interstate on a dark night. I moved the car as far as I could away from the traffic, put on my emergency flashers and waited. An hour later and a half later, George pulled up.
George begin preparing his truck for a tow. He got a little upset after I told him that I didn’t need a tow, but a tire changed. He stormed off and got his tire changing equipment from his truck. I was determined that on the side of the road, one hour south of Columbus, Ohio, that I make a new friend. George was having nothing of it. He didn’t know me, wasn’t interested in getting to know me nor in me getting to know him.
Undaunted I continued my attempts start a dialogue with George. Finally, I asked him why he was so upset about the job being a flat tire rather than a tow. George told me that he got paid ten dollars for changing a flat and thirty dollars for a tow. He was upset because he had just driven 50 miles drive to earn $10. I was shocked at how little he was going to get paid. George appeared to be one of these guys who keeps it real. I now understood why he was upset. When you add in George’s time, the fuel, the wear and tear on his truck, this job certainly wasn’t worth his time.
I said, “well George, this is a solvable problem. I’ll make sure this job is worth your time.” I told him what he was doing for me was worth a whole lot more than ten dollars. I let know him that his compensation on this night would be more than the fee he would get from National. With that, the previously grumpy person cracked a smile. I wouldn’t say that I made a new friend, but I did try to make sure George knew how much I appreciated him making that 50-mile drive on a dark cool night to come to my rescue. I made it to Columbus a couple of hours later than I had expected.
All of you who have read each word in each of my previous blogs will be familiar with Kevin. No not the one of the “Battle in the Bluegrass” and the “Whuppin’ in the Woods” fame but the one from Columbus. He was my host at the Golf Club. You will recall that John whom I met when playing at Merion asked Kevin to host me. Then over the course of our time together we discovered that we’d met at a wedding 25 years ago. During our round at The Golf Club, Kevin said he would get his friend Gene to host me at Double Eagle. Six months after becoming reacquainted with each other, we were at Double Eagle with Gene and one of Gene’s work colleagues, Denny. We were there to play the 69th course on my one year quest to play the Golf Digest 2017-18 Top 100 Golf Courses in America.
Kevin, Gene, Denny and I had lunch at the club before heading out to the practice range to warm up for our round. We were joined by Josh, one of the assistant pros who had agreed to forecaddie for us. We agreed to play from the member tees. They measure 6535 yards with a rating of 71.8 and a 134 slope.
The opening hole at Double Eagle is a 390 yard par four with what looks like a very wide fairway. Looks can be deceiving however. There are some rather large fairway bunkers on each side of the fairway in the landing zone. There are also trees off to the left that are very close. I hit a high drive down the left side of the fairway expecting it to fade to the middle. The ball didn’t travel far enough to fade. I was left with 170 yards to the green.
What had looked like a wide fairway now shows its true colors with an approach to a green framed by trees. In addition to narrowing, the fairway drops off into a creek that separates it from the green. I topped my approach shot. The ball stayed on the ground and stopped 95 yards from the flag. I was happy that it didn’t go into the creek.
At 95 yards everything looks wide open again. The hole was cut on the back middle portion of the green, taking the false front out of play. I hit my lob wedge to 12 feet from the hole.
My par putt slid a little more to the right than expected. I tapped in to open the round with a bogey.
The second hole is a 475 yard par five. The fairway looks wide and is wide. There is a group of bunkers in the fairway on the right side that start at about 200 yards from the member tees and two along the left edge. The fairway ends at a creek that is 260 to 270 yards from the tee. It picks up again on the other side of the creek in a much narrower form. I hit a 240 yard drive into the second bunker in the group of bunkers on the right.
My shot from the bunker hit the lip of the and landed in the next bunker. My third shot landed in the creek. I took a drop and hit my fifth shot to about 90 yards out. My sixth shot landed on the front of the green, below the flag.
I was hopeful that I could I make the 12 foot putt to save double bogey. Sadly, I could not. I recorded a rare triple bogey.
The third hole is a 390 yard par four with a fairway that is slightly offset to the left of the tee box. I generally have trouble with my drives on hole with fairways that are offset to the left of the tee box. The fairway bends slightly from right to left. There is a bunker off the left side of the fairway just before the turn and one off the right side of the fairway at the turn. I missed the fairway to the right and landed in the rough, leaving 200 yards to the flag.
The flag was positioned on the back left behind a bunker. I tried to draw the ball around the bunker with my three hybrid. I hit the ball well, it had the desired shape but just wasn’t hit far enough. The ball landed just short of the green.
I chipped to 25 feet short of the cup and two-putted for a bogey. While a par would have been great, I was happy with the bogey. I’d hit a reasonable drive and a good second shot. That meant I had not tensed up following the horrible triple bogey on the second hole. I sometimes allow one bad hole at the beginning of a round to kill my entire round.
The fourth hole provided an opportunity to gain a little more confidence. The par three measure just 160 yards and was playing even shorter with an accessible front pin location. The green is narrow and long with four bunkers protecting it. There are three on the left, including a rather large one and one on the right. I hit my tee shot along the inside of the right front bunker and let the left the right wind bring it back. The ball landed just short of the green. Gene hit a great tee shot to just below the hole.
My putt from off the green hit inside the back of the cup and popped out. I finally had my first par of the round. Gene missed his birdie putt but also made par. Kevin and Denny made bogeys. It was a good hole for the foursome.
The course gets serious again on the 415 yard par four fifth hole. It is rated as the most difficult hole on the course. The fairway plays like a funnel. It is wide at the beginning but narrows continuously with trees closing in on both sides as it approaches a ravine and creek that separates it from the green. I hit a low and short drive to the middle of the fairway.
With 220 yards remaining and a deep ravine short of the green, I laid up short of where the fairways starts to slope down toward the ravine.
The fifth green is probably one of the largest on the course. It has two rather large bunkers along the right side. My lay up to the right side of the green left me with a good angle to the hole, but I still had to deal with the bunkers. I didn’t deal with them well. I hit my third shot into the second one.
I hit my sand shot to within 8 feet of the cup but missed the putt and recorded a double bogey.
The 505 yard sixth hole is the second par five and has one of the narrowest fairways on the course. It has one of the narrowest fairways on the course. It takes a carry of at least 210 yards from the member tees to reach fairway. There is a bunker on the left just beyond the start of fairway. It’s the only fairway bunker on the hole. I hit my drive to just short of the bunker.
My second shot was an ill-advised attempt to hit my driver out of the rough. The ball was sitting up, so I thought I could get it up quick enough to clear the bunker a few yards farther up. I thought wrong. The ball clipped the bunker and died in the rough just beyond it. I hit my third shot to 140 yards from the green.
I hit my fourth shot to pin high, 20 feet left of the hole.
I left my par putt short of the cup and tapped in for a bogey.
The fairway on the par four seventh hole takes up only one-third of the 360 yards that the hole measures from the member tees. Its widest point is almost as wide as its length. There are no bunkers on the hole. Positioning off the tee is important. The ball needs be on the left side of the fairway to have a reasonable angle to get by the trees that frame the green and still land on the green. I hit my drive to the right side of the fairway.
My angle to the green required an approach shot that started on a line toward the bunkers off the left front of the green and then faded. I hit my ball on that line but didn’t hit it for enough. It landed shot of the green.
I chipped on to 12 feet below the hole. My par putt missed two inches to the left of the cup. I tapped in for another bogey.
The eighth hole is a 180 yard par three with a wide but shallow green that requires a carry over a ravine with a creek at the bottom. The green like on so many of the previous holes is framed by trees.
I made a two-putt double bogey on the hole after hitting my tee shot into the creek. Kevin made his third par in four holes.
The front nine ends with a 410 yard par four. The hole has a series of bunkers outlined in rough, that take up a good portion of the middle of the fairway. I hit my drive over all but the last bunker on the right. The ball landed in the rough between it and the second bunker, leaving about 160 yards to the pin.
The almost square green has two large bunker that guard its front and one small one off to the right. My approach shot was short. It landed in the front bunker farthest to the right.
I hit from the bunker to the back of the green and two-putted from there was another bogey. That triple bogey on the second hole was hard to overcome. I shot a 48 on the front nine with just one par. Kevin finished the front nine with pars on four of the last five holes to record a score of 40.
The back nine opens with a standard 370 yard par four. It plays straight from tee to green. There is a massive fairway bunker on the left at about 200 yards from the tee. The right side is wide open. I popped my drive up. It landed in the middle of the fairway leaving 180 yards to the middle of the green.
To equalize the pop-up off the tee, I topped my approach shot and left the ball 120 yards short of the green. I hit my third shot to the front of the green. I pulled my par putt and missed the cup by 2 inches to the left. I tapped in for a bogey.
The 11th hole is lined with trees all along the left side from the tee just short of the green. There are a couple of bunkers on the left just after the start of the fairway. There is also a massive bunker on the right at about 100 yards short of the green on this 520 yard par five. I hit my drive to left. I hit my second shot to the right. My third shot also went right, leaving a fourth shot to the green on the left.
With all of this left to right movement, it was only fitting that we let Governor John Kasich who was playing behind us and moving rather fast, straight down the middle, play through.
The governor finished the hole and stopped to chat for a few moments before moving on to the next hole.
I finished the hole by hitting my ball to left and over the green. I chipped back to the right and on before two putting for my only double bogey on the back nine. I’m not sure why but my ball stayed a little more in the middle after my chat with the governor – not really! But I did start to play a whole lot better.
The twelfth hole is a 400 yard par four with a fairway that has bunkers cutting into it from both the right and the left. I guess that made it a fair and balanced hole. Ok, enough of the political inuendo. I hit my drive to the right, just over the bunker.
I didn’t have much of a stance for my 190 yard approach shot. I popped the ball up to about 10 yards short of the bunker in front of the right half of the green. My pitch shot landed on the green and rolled to the left edge leaving an 18 foot putt.
I left my par putt one foot short of the cup and bogeyed the hole.
The thirteenth hole is the shortest and easiest hole on the course. It is a 120 yard par three with nothing but bunkers to defend the green. One of those bunkers is a huge one along the left side. There are several smaller bunkers spread out around the green. I hit my tee shot fat and short of the green.
I pitched on to three feet and made the putt for a par.
With all the 400 yards plus par fours on the course, the fourteenth hole feels short at 360 yards. The hole has water on the right just off the tee. It isn’t in play. What is in play are the bunkers farther out in the landing zone. My drive landed in the rough to the right of the larger of the two.
After we hit our drives we walked over to the Tiki Bar. The flag wasn’t flying. My understanding is that when the flag is flying, all are welcomed over to share a drink.
My drive left me with a 190 yard shot into the wind to a flag just short of the back of the green. I hit a 3 hybrid to the back of the green.
My putt missed the hole by two feet, but stopped pin high enabling me to make my second par in a row.
I approached the longest par four and the second hardest hole on the course needing to continue my par streak to keep my score under 90. The 15th hole measures 440 yards. The fairway curves around Lake Weiskopf off to its left. There are three bunkers along the right from 220 yards to 290 yards off the tee. The challenge off the tee is deciding how much of the water to take on. Obviously, the more water you cross, the shorter your approach shot will be.
I took a line that required as little water carry as possible. Even on that line, my ball didn’t stay in the air long enough to reach the fairway on the fly, but it did end up in the fairway 250 yards from the middle of the green. I hit the ball on a low enough trajectory and with enough speed for it to skip across the last few yards of water and hop onto the fairway.
I counted my blessing and laid up to 90 yards on my second shot. I then hit a lob wedge to 35 feet of the hole.
I missed my par putt but was happy to save bogey after almost having to retee my ball after the drive. I had now used up my margin of error. I had to make all pars on the remaining three holes to break 90. Kevin was working on breaking 80. He’d made par on three of the first six holes on the back nine. If he could find one birdie and make two pars on the last three holes, he’d shoot a 79. The last three holes are a par three, a short par four, and a par five. With that combination, it was certainly feasible that both of us could do what was needed.
We got off to a good start on the 175 yard par three sixteenth hole. The hole is like an azalea free version of the 12th hole at Augusta National. It has a carry over lake McConnell to a wide, but shallow green with a bunker in the front and several off the back. Lake McConnell is named for the founder of Double Eagle. He and his wife are interred near the 12th green.
In addition to the water carry and the bunkers off the front and back of the green, there was a three club wind blowing directly into us. My tee shot just made the front of the green, leaving a thirty- foot putt for birdie.
I hit a good solid putt on a good line but knew when ball left the putter face that it would be short. It was tracking toward the hole but stopped 18 inches before reaching it. I made the next putt for par. Kevin also made his par.
The seventeenth hole is the shortest par four on the course. It measures just 340 yards. It has an extremely wide fairway, but it is not without its challenges. There is a large tree in the right middle of the fairway and a whole lot of bunkers everywhere else. I hit a three hybrid off the tee to just short of a bunker in the middle of the fairway, leaving 95 yards to the flag.
I thought long and hard about my approach shot. The flag was positioned at the back of the green, just left of middle. With the wind in my face, I didn’t think my lob wedge would be enough club, but with Lake Mc Connell behind the green, I thought my sand wedge might be too much. While my golf balls can walk on water, they can’t float. I decided to go with the shorter club. I over swung a bit and pushed the ball to the right. It hit on the right far right side of the green and rolled off.
My putt from off the green stopped well short of the hole. I missed the fifteen-footer for par and made a disappointing bogey after being in the middle of the fairway, just 95 yards from the hole. I now needed a birdie on the par five finishing hole to break 90. Kevin made a par on the hole and also needed a birdie to break 80.
The 18th hole is a 525 yard par five with a short carry over a portion of Lake Mc Connell to a wide fairway sandwiched between thick trees on the left and the right. The fairway ends at a lake that separates it from the green. My drive faded a little too much and landed in the first cut of rough.
I laid up to the middle of the fairway, 160 yards from the middle of the green.
I flushed my approach shot. It landed on the back of the green.
My birdie putt from the back of the green, was tracking but didn’t drop into the cup. I made the second putt to end my round with a par and one stroke too many to break 90. I shot a solid 42 on the back, but the 48 on the front was just too much to overcome. Kevin doubled the last hole and shot an 84.
I enjoyed meeting Gene and Denny. I’d like to thank Kevin for introducing us and Gene for hosting us at Double Eagle. Go Buckeyes!
Following our round, I had the opportunity to meet and spend some time with Chris Abernathy, the Head Professional at Double Eagle. He like the other Head Pro’s that I’ve met has a strong passion for golf. I enjoyed talking about several of the top 100 courses with him. Meeting and talking golf with the Head Pro’s at the top 100 courses is always one of the highlights at each course I play.
After visiting with Chris, I returned my wounded rental car to the airport to exchange it for one with a spare so that I could safely make the drive back to Atlanta with 69 of the Top 100 Courses now completed.