Monday, January 26, 2015

#47 (World) / #26 (U.S.) Garden City Golf Club

September 16, 2014

When I met Kelly and Scott at Royal St. George's in July, and finished the back nine of that course with them, my quest to play the top 100 courses came up. They advised the next time I was in New York, that I should touch base with them and they could help me out with a few.  At the time, I wasn't sure which few so I gave them my card, we finished the round, and I didn't think to much about it.  A few weeks after the England trip, Kelly emailed me and confirmed that the invitation was still available. I mentioned that I would be in New York in September and he offered tee times at Garden City Golf Club (where he is a member), Winged Foot, and Plainfield Country Club. I heartily accepted with much gratitude, and dates and tee times were set.

The first stop of our three course tour was Garden City Golf Club. The day started off with relatively mild weather but half way through the round, the weather turned, and we ended up finishing the back half of the course in a monsoon. Unfortunately, my camera became waterlogged so I don't have as many shots or the quality I prefer. What you will see are the photos of the first 11 holes, excluding number 1, that I took before my camera decided to die on me on the 12th tee box. 

The Garden City Golf Club is one of the few clubs that not only has only men as members, but men are the only ones allowed to play, with a very few exceptions and select days where women may join male members. The 1899 course has an old school feel from the moment you step foot inside the clubhouse. Before you an step foot inside, however, you must put on a jacket in the parking lot. The club requires patrons to wear a jacket since its founding. It is quite the site to see some members with shorts and a jacket as they enter the clubhouse.

The clubhouse at Garden City Golf Club.
Once inside, old lockers, doors, and photos adorn the property. The locker room is a throw back to the turn of the last century. You enter the locker room through two saloon-style swinging doors. The metal green lockers are the originals, as is almost everything found inside the clubhouse. There is a large moose head mounted high up in the arching ceiling at one end of the room and a deer head mounted to the opposite wall, facing each other in a timeless staring duel. The main part of the clubhouse is one of the more genuinely unique and traditional rooms, very much like a traditional English club that I experienced back in July.

A look inside the locker room towards the entrance.
A look at the back half of the locker room.
After changing out of my jacket and dress shoes into a golf shirt and shoes, I wandered the halls for a bit, taking in the rich history of the club. As I made my way into the bar and restaurant area, I spotted Kelly on the outdoor patio area. We had breakfast (quite tasty I might add) and waited for another friend of Kelly's to arrive.  Towards the end of breakfast, Andy arrived, presented me with a gift of a Georgetown basketball jersey (apparently his daughter attends Georgetown), and we chatted briefly. I learned that Andy is a member at Planfield CC where we would play in two days, and that he and Kelly had generously taken time away from work to host me over the three days. I again expressed my gratitude at the awesome gesture. After a brief few minutes at the range, we met our caddies and teed off.  I had received permission to take photos while playing the course, but was requested not to start until we finished the first hole. I, of course, accepted the restriction with no qualms whatsoever.

The course has only three par threes and plays to a par of 73. There are two sets of tee boxes, the Championship (or back) tees and the the Regular (or front) tees.  Holes thirteen through seventeen make up the most challenging stretch of the course with a tough collection of par fours and fives. Unfortunately, I don't have photos of any of those due to my camera breaking due to the water that got inside.

Garden City Golf Club appears in The World's 500 Greatest Golf Holes and holes 2 and 11 are ranked as two of the top 500 holes in the world.

The first hole is short 302 yards played from the championship tees and and is quirky with a semi-blind tee shot.

The second hole is a 137 yard par 3 that plays across a ravine and onto an elevated, relatively flat green. As noted in the book above, "The tee shot plays over the gaping 'Bottonless Pit'. If that's not enough to think about, three additional, albeit smaller, bunkers guard the right and rear of the green."
A look into the green from the 2nd tee box.
The third hole is a 407 yard par 4. The tee shot is played over a rough area, through a gap of trees, and onto a relatively open fairway. The approach into the green is fairly straightforward. The green slopes left to right and is guarded on both sides by bunkers.

A look down the fairway from the 3rd tee box.
A look into the 3rd green from 150 yards out. 
A closer look at the 3rd green.
The fourth hole is a 523 yard par 5 that plays longer than one would expect. Again,. the drive is across a patch of rough and onto a wide fairway. Closer to the green, there is a path that cuts across the fairway, but likely shouldn't come into play.  The green slopes slightly both to the left and right with sand traps guarding both sides of it.
A look down the fairway from the 4th tee box.
A look into the 4th green from 75 yards out.
Continuing the theme at the Par 4, 360 yard fifth hole, the drive is to a wide open fairway and finishes up at a relatively flat green guarded on both sides by bunkers.

A look down the fairway from the 5th tee box.
A look into the 5th green from 100 yards out.
The sixth hole is a 440 yard par 4 and is is ranked as the number one most difficult hole on the course. Keeping with the theme of most of the course, the drive is across a rough area and onto a wide fairway. One thing I did not capture well in my photos is the rolling nature of the fairways that do not offer very many flat lies. The ball is often below or above your feet. Even though the fairways are wide, many of the shots you face at Garden City Golf Club are going to be challenging. One of the things that separate the sixth hole from the previous few holes is a ridge topped with shrubs that crosses the fairway. Depending on ball location, it can obscure your view for your approach shot to the green. Close to the green, the fairway takes a sharp right turn, leaving your shot into the green more difficult than earlier holes as you are hitting a small cross section landing zone. Large bunkers guard both sides.
A look down the fairway from the 6th tee box.
A look at the shrub covered ridge that crosses the center of the fairway.
A look into the 6th green from 75 yards out.
The seventh hole is the second of the par 5s found on the front 9. It plays to 550 yards, and with the wind and rain that kicked into high gear while we were on the tee box, making for a very difficult hole. Unlike previous holes, the green is only guarded by one bunker on the left. However, the green slopes right to left to feed poorly hit balls right into the bunker.

A look down the fairway from the 7th tee box.
A look into the 7th green from 150 yards out.
The eighth hole is a 418 yard par 4. Again, another hole with a wide open fairway where any shot to either side can land you in some difficult rough to play a second shot from. A large, 25-30 yard wide bunker crosses the fairway in front of the green and can lead to some interesting chips up onto an undulating green.
A look down the fairway from the 8th tee box.

A look into the 8th green from 150 yards out.
A look into the 8th green from 100 yards out. 
A closer look at the wide bunker that crosses the fairway just in front of the 8th green.
The ninth hole is a short, 323 yard par 4. The tee shot plays across a long rough area to a more narrow fairway than the previous holes.  There is another shrub-lined ridge that crosses the fairway just before the fairway turns right into the flat ninth green.

A look down the fairway from the 9th tee box.
A look into the 9th green from 150 yards out.
The tenth hole is a par 4 that plays to 414 yards. There are several, moderately deep, fairway bunkers that can make for a tricky second shot if your ball finds them. The rough runs into and out of the fairway which can also lead to some interesting lies for a second shot. The green, that slopes from right to left, has a very deep bunker on the left side of the green. It is so deep, in fact, that there are steps built into the side of the bunker to aid in getting in and out, much like is found on courses throughout England.
A look down the fairway from the 10th tee box.
A closer look at one of the fairway bunkers that always look to grab errant tee shots.
A look into the 10th green from 75 yards out.
 The eleventh hole is a par 4 that plays to 426 yards.  As noted in The World's 500 Greatest Golf Holes, "A fair test for the average player, a significantly tougher one for low-handicappers, this hole has a left-to-right angle to the fairway that encourages a fade off the tee. But the prime landing area is narrow and dangerous - deep bunkers down the right and nasty rough creeping in from the left. Missing the fairway on either side will almost surely lead to a bogey. On the green, a barely noticeable swale creates a two-tiered surface that produces large breaks on most putts."

A look down the fairway from the 11th tee box.
A closer look at the very tough 11th green.

As mentioned at the beginning of this blog, holes thirteen through seventeen make up the most challenging stretch of the course with a tough collection of par fours and fives. I won't describe them any further in hops that one day, I might be able to come back to Garden City Golf Club and photograph them and add them to this blog.

Overall, I had a very good golf experience at Garden City Golf Club. I know that some people are put off by the no-female policy. However, I believe that in America, people still have the right to decide what is best for their private club. Much like women who have women-only gyms, men also have the right to have a few places that are exclusive just for them.  The club has an old world charm I really enjoyed. Unlike other top, exclusive and very private clubs, I found Garden City and all of the members and staff I met very welcoming.

After the round, Kelly, Andy and I had lunch and chatted a bit more. They were gracious hosts and I can not thank them enough for extending an invitation to experience one of my favorite golf clubs in the U.S. to date. If you ever get a chance to play a round at Garden City Golf Club, do not miss it. It truly is a memorable and enjoyable experience.

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