I am privileged. Or, maybe I`m spoiled. Call it whichever you like but I get to play some pretty magnificent golf courses. This weekend I played at Cherry Hill in Ridegway, Ontario. What I like about Cherry Hill is what I like about all of the courses I call my favourites.
Cherry Hill was designed by Walter Travis in the 1920`s. It`s a simple parkland layout but the greens are crazy! All putts run away from the club house so not matter what you`re looking at on the green (side hill, up hill, down hill) you actually need to get your bearings on the clubhouse to figure out the break. That being said Raymond Floyd four putted the 18th (right beside the clubhouse) when the Canadian Open was played there years ago.
Midway through my round I realized what is was that I liked best about these old courses. I loved hearing the birds singing in the trees. I loved the big old trees that pepper the property. I love the smell of grass. I love that playing these kinds of courses is just like a walk in the park. After the thought occurred to me I realized that that was exactly why links golf in the U.K. appealed to me. Many of the oldest courses over there are parks where the public can go for a leisurely stroll. The day before I played Royal Dornoch a couple of years ago, I walked the course and came upon a local resident playing catch in the fairways with his dog.
These kinds of courses make the game feel much more social too. I`ve always been an advocate of public golf and often poo poo the idea of joining a private club. That being said, lately I have seen some of the benefits of playing private. This weekend at Cherry Hill was a great example.
There is a camaraderie at private clubs that brings disparate people together. The common denominator is the game and their loyalty to the club. I played at Cherry Hill with Bill a retired Vietnam vet. He has regaled me with stories of the course`s history as well as his own. He proudly talked about the times and his daughter would play together as she banged balls off the plastic 100 yard markers. From there she developed a lifelong love for the game. We played with his friend and fellow member Jim who kibitzed around with the group ahead of us and shared tales from his own life. Jeff, the club`s head pro, also joined us and kept us laughing with stories from his longtime friendship with Jim Thorpe. Jeff also taught me a valuable lesson. He kept saying that is he didn`t have a short game he`d never break 100. True to his word he hit very few green in regulation but made a remarkable number of one putts and probably shot even par (or better). Later he pointed at the club`s short game area and said that that was where he spent most of his time.
As I left the course on Saturday I realized that in just a few hours Bill, Jim and Jeff had not only hosted me on their wonderful course but they had welcomed me into their club. For a few hours I not only played Cherry Hill but was a member. And I loved it. It felt so natural. Like a walk in the park.