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North Carolina: Praise Donald Ross and Pass the BBQ Sauce

Here’s one of the challenging things about playing golf in North Carolina: all the food.

This four-day whirlwind tour of the McConnell Golf Trail got underway Tuesday in Raleigh, N.C., at the impeccable Raleigh Country Club, a surprising 6,900-yard Donald Ross layout in the heart of the City of Oaks that’s the flagship of golf-mad entrepreneur John McConnell’s burgeoning course collection.

The par-4 fourth at Raleigh Country Club: Does that scream Donald Ross, or what?

Now, running on only a few hours of sleep, and only a couple of hours removed from the 100-minute flight from Toronto, I wasn’t quite prepared for roller-coaster fairways and exquisite, undulating putting surfaces that were rolling — no joke — at 11.5 on the Stimpmeter. But the driver was solid and straight, the irons crisp and even the short game started to come around.

I went into this trip with a resolution to latch on to one or two basic fundamental goals for each round, to choose what golf coaches Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott, best known for their work through the years with Annika Sorenstam, call a “playing focus” — a simple mental-game objective that allows a player to slowly build a solid mental approach.

Mine this week has been to concentrate on a simple pre-shot routine that involves simply taking a few extra beats in the “think box” — standing behind the ball, coming up with the line and the shot shape, and taking into account variables like the wind, elevation, and other conditions — before crossing into the “play box” to strike the ball.

Then there was the post-round routine.

No, I didn't eat the whole thing. But we were only there a couple of hours.

What you’re looking at is a selection of baby-back and Carolina ribs, brisket and fried chicken from The Pit, one of North Carolina’s most legendary barbeque spots. It was a side dish of sorts to a massive plate of chopped BBQ pork, mac and cheese and baked beans, and was followed by a selection of bourbon ice cream and banana pudding.

Gross, I know. But SOOOO good. I didn’t eat it all, because it wasn’t all for me. But don’t think I didn’t think about it.

So, yeah — that thing about getting in shape, watching the calorie intake and getting some exercise? Well, it starts Wednesday. No, wait — Wednesday’s the Angus Barn steakhouse, another Raleigh institution from the Protein Hall of Fame, after 18 at the Tom Fazio-designed Treyburn Country Club.

Oh, well — the diet and workout regimen will have to wait until I get home. So, too, will a more detailed report on the courses, the shots — and the relentless, unceasing eating.

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James McCarten

When James McCarten isn't at the Ottawa offices of The Canadian Press, where he works as parliamentary news editor, he's either on the golf course or putting off his latest freelance golf-writing gig to spend time with wife Lisa and school-age kids Claire and Lucas. With 20 years of experience in Canadian journalism, James also suffers from a financially crippling addiction to all things Scotty Cameron.

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