The Finest of Days
Clear skies this time of year make for chilly mornings but perfect afternoons for golfing. The frost delay which set us back about an hour was a blessing in disguise as it had us teeing off in the warmest part of the day. Located 5 minutes from the RV park we are staying at, the proximity although not vitally important made for a relaxing short drive. The spectacular views of the surrounding landscape are a repeat of our round we played the day before at Carmel Valley Ranch. The beauty of the Carmel Valley where Quail Lodge and Golf Club sits is, it is not exclusive to one type of business or residence, its shared and enjoyed by all.
To say this was the perfect day of golf might sound like an exaggeration to many. It didn’t even contain a birdie let alone a hole in one and it may have been void of a par and still deserve this superlative description. There were plenty of pars just to clarify. What made it so right began from the time we parked until the time we left, so perfection had about a 5-hour lifespan. It might have had a slightly longer lifespan if you include the impact that the first glance of the course gives you. After parking we walked across the road to where the bag drop is located and within 30 seconds had our golf bags loaded up on a power cart. A new one I might add with a great GPS system on board.
Upon entering the pro shop, which was appointed in the nicest way with a broad selection of ladies and men’s garments, Derrek Wolf, positioned at the counter greeted me as warmly and kindly as you could ask for. It’s the type of treatment you expect from your home course and the staff who know you well. He directed us to where the range and practice green were, explained the layout of the surrounding clubhouse including restrooms and ended with stating he looked forward to seeing us when we finished.
A very positive few minutes continued to flourish every step of the way. Now the ball was handed to Ross outside acting as starter and looking very poised in constant radio contact with Derek up in the pro shop. With the aforementioned frost delay behind them the 2 of then along with another team members on the ground were coordinating getting everyone out with any extra delay. The attention to detail did not stop there, as the grounds and surrounding facility were unsullied. I felt so good even my range time had me hitting great iron after great iron, which seemed to be repeated by the sound of Myra’s ball striking behind me.
Ross strolled over giving us a 10 minute “heads up” so we wandered over to hit some practice putts. Now as most of you know I’m all about the greens. They mean more to me than getting free gold-plated golf tees or a 5-course complimentary lunch. I started out making the first 3 practice putts, a 5-footer then a 15-footer and what the heck let’s try a long way and a 30-footer joined the parade. Now to say I’m a good putter when I’m on I must confess is an understatement. I once entered a putting contest at a men’s night and as gimmick you received 3 attempts for $5 from 20 feet. I made all 3. No one else made 1. Why? Instead of a putter they made you use a 10-pound sledgehammer. True story, cross my heart, hope to shank.
The practice green was the nicest I have ever putted on, yes, the nicest. Now I’ve seen some that are great but the ones on the course totally different and vice versa. Also, the cups were brand new and made of plastic and black in color. That’s a first too. Ross came over and said he was going to pair us up if that was OK but the couple, members of Quail, had to get away after 5 holes. This was not going to be awkward for speed of play as due to the frost delay everyone was starting on 14 so they were playing the last 5 holes with us.
The bonus was the twosome was a couple which is always nice for Myra and ultimately me too when she has someone of her own gender to bond with. Sometimes Gus and Tom from the local sawmill just don’t work for us. We made our own introductions and what a sincerely friendly pair they were and wouldn’t you know the lady’s name was Joan. My dearly departed mothers name was also Joan. So, Joan and Jim from Santa Clara 22-year members in good standing would, for at least 5 holes, be our golfing companions. The 14th is a par 5 and all 4 of us hit beauties and it carried on that way for the 5 holes with them. I started par, par, par and Myra was really on form too. The course was mint, I mean like this can’t get better and let me tell you about the greens. Bent grass, double cut, subtle but fair breaks and nice and big. The fairways were lush and soft on the feet, no we weren’t barefoot, but you know what I mean. I hit a driver off the first fairway, they were that nice.
Jim was really proud of the course pointing out where ponds had been filled in, trees removed and areas reconfigured. The recent 5 million dollar refined redesign by Todd Eckenrode on this 1964 Robert Muir Graves layout had paid off immensely. We have yet to play any course on this 7 week trip where the bunkers hadn’t suffered from the excessive rains, winds and harsh conditions until Quail Lodge. Both of us were floating bunker shots with ease due to the beautiful fluffy consistency in them. We continued on to play the remaining 13 holes bidding the Holmquists a farewell but not before agreeing we will play a full round here in the not too distant future.From here on in I’m going to let the pictures do the talking. What I need you to read is what I said to Myra after about my 9th one putt. “Hon I’m going on record right now and telling you these are the finest greens I have putted on globally”. Now that’s just my own opinion but I am a putter, an aficionado of the putting surface, a veritable connoisseur of the flat stick and its carpet.
I would be boasting if I told you where I’ve played. 16 different countries, numerous PGA Tour, Champion Tour, European Tour, LPGA Tour sites and even at that the best greens I’s ever played on up to this point were at a relatively unknown jewel of a course, Nairn Golf Club on the shores of the Moray Firth in Scotland. The quality of Quail Lodge, the playability and design of the course and the condition were a first class, 5-star, gold medal, Oscar winning performance.
Walking into see Derrick in the pro shop I was gushing and reiterated what I had said to Myra on about our 12th hole of play “Those are the finest greens I have putted on globally”. I had read about this turf grass genius Superintendent Denis Kerr, his dedication and pedigree at Quail Lodge and GC and now had to tell him my thoughts myself. Although he had left Derrick managed to get him on the phone and handed it to me. I could have pulled up a chair and a chatted to him for a half hour. I could feel his smile radiate through the phone and I know he felt mine.
“Denis, I have to tell you myself before you read it or hear from someone else. Those are the finest greens I have ever putted on globally, full stop” After his continual and repeated “thank you’s” and even humble apologies for not making the course even better for my arrival I had to qualify some of the others I had putted on. I mean, my god, if I’d only played 20 courses in my life being my personal best might be cool but not really that significant. So, I shared a few facts of where, the aforementioned Tours and then specifically a handful to cement the deal. Wentworth, Royal Dornoch, Kingsbarns, every St Andrews course as I used to live there, Commonwealth on the Sandbelt in Melbourne, Sea Island GC, Bali Golf and CC, Royal Colwood in Canada, lets add Banff Springs and Jasper Park while we are at it. I mean I left out Nairn thinking he’d perhaps have said “Where?”
We ended by both thanking each other and I made him really chuckle when I said “Denis if you don’t get superintendent of the year, decade or maybe lifetime from your association quit paying your dues, they don’t know crap”. We headed out but not before receiving one of the nicest compliments someone has ever paid me in my golfing career. I also added that I know he isn’t solely responsible and these accolades are to be shared with his very capable crew of greens keepers. Derrek stated that in his 9 years working at Quail Lodge no golf writer had personally ever asked to speak directly to the golf course superintendent to express such praise and admiration. When you’re in the greater Monterey area do yourself or someone else you care for a favor and go out and play Quail Lodge and GC. Perfection is a rare commodity in this mixed up world at least they’ve got it right there to enjoy.