Life has been good lately: This past weekend marked my second round of golf at Pine Valley. My first round was in September 2011, and the writeup can be found here. My first post focuses on the history of the course, my visit to the Short Course, and the overall experience. Have a glance at it before reading this article! You may notice it doesn’t have any pictures of the course – I didn’t bring my camera. This round I had my camera and took advantage of the beautiful day!
This is a special time to play Pine Valley. Having opened in 1913, this is Pine Valley’s centennial year. To celebrate the occasion, the club has created a centennial logo and has printed new scorecards (seen above) that are only going to be available this year. It is an historic time for the #1 course in the world. I met my host member on the vast expanse of a range where we hit the Pro-V1 range balls in the 95-degree heat until we were adequately loose and close to heat strokes. My group then headed towards the clubhouse for a pre-round lunch. I wanted to slow down and appreciate the subtleties of the club during this visit.
I want to reiterate something mentioned to me by both my host members during rounds at Pine Valley. The club has a very relaxed ambiance. Members and club staff are friends who joke with each other and ask about family. Everything is understated, but anything a golfer could desire can be found. The exclusivity of the club would not lead one to expect a fun, relaxed, and laid back environment behind its impenetrable gate, but that is exactly what a golfer will find.
The second hole at Pine Valley (seen above) sets the tone for the round. An island fairway is surrounded by thick woods and large waste-like bunkers.The third hole is a downhill par 3 and has one of my favorite greens on the course. The green is massive and sloping. Depending on pin positions, the hole can be increased by nearly 35 yards with inviting pins being front left, and risk reward locations being back left. It is a genius green complex.The tee shot on #4 is intimidating. The line for big hitters from the member’s tees is down the right hand side of the bunker.Standing 60 yards out from #4 green shows the large, sloping green with the edge of the clubhouse on the right.Hole #5 is one of the most difficult par 3s I have ever played. It is 230 yards uphill, with tough bunkers left, and steep slopes leading to deep bunkers on the right. The best miss is short in the collection area, but not too short, which ends up in an even tougher set of deep bunkers.The drive on #6 is across a large waste area. The fairway moves right and away from the players. Golfers can cut off as much as they dare. Word of warning: Don’t go through the fairway.The view seen above is the carry over “Hell’s Half Acre” on the number 1 handicap hole, the par 5 7th.Uniquely, both the 8th and 9th holes at Pine Valley have two greens. Depending on how the greenskeepers choose to set up the course that day, you may be hitting into either green. There is a typical tournament choice with both sets of greens. Fortunately, during this round, it was a different set of greens from my first round, so I have now seen the whole course. Make sure to notice the minuscule size of the greens on #8 (seen above).Two green options on #9 with the upper left hand green being the typical tournament choice.The unique halfway house at Pine Valley, built in the base of an old water tower.To quote my host member, “The 10th is one of the two pushover holes we have on the course. The other is #12.” The hole above is the 150 yard par 3 10th. The famous “Devil’s Asshole” bunker is front right. It is frighteningly deep. The hole is certainly the easiest par 3 on the course, but it is only a pushover by Pine Valley standards.The picturesque 11th hole requires a fade for perfect placement off the tee, and a draw for an approach to the green. The hole’s design demands perfection from golfers -something found on many holes at Pine Valley and a characteristic of the course that justifies its #1 in the World ranking.The 13th is my favorite hole on the course and one of the best par 4s that I have ever played. The tee shot requires perfect placement for the approach to the green (seen below).A well struck tee shot on 13 will end up at the point from where this photo was taken. An approach shot measuring around 175 yards is needed to reach the green. Do not go left. The front left pin seen in this photo is a sucker placement.The downhill par 3 14th demands an accurate strike. Missing the green on any side will lead to a big number.The view from the tee box on 15 is stunning. It is a serene and peaceful area of the course. If given the opportunity, I would walk out to that tee with a book and my camera to wait for the sunset every night of the week. The 15th fairway is seen on the left and the 16th green is seen on the right.This is the approach to the 15th green. The bunkers on the right were not there last time I played. They are new to the course and were added by Pine Valley member Tom Fazio.The approach to the 16th green is another view that nearly takes away your breath. Anyone, golfer or non golfer, can appreciate the beauty in this nook of the course.This is one of the saddest views in all of golf. It is the 18th hole, and it signals that your time at Pine Valley is coming to an end. The 18th is by no means easy, but it can present a good birdie opportunity if the pin in on the right side of the green, which slopes severely from left to right.
I concluded my first blog post on Pine Valley by saying, “I don’t know how many more times I will be able to play Pine Valley. If I never play it again, my only round there will have been incredible and nearly perfect. The entire experience was something I’ll never forget and, if I ever go back, I doubt the greatness will have changed one bit.” Well, I’ve been back, and the greatness hasn’t changed one bit indeed.