Pine Valley. Finally!

23 08 2008

So, anyone that knows anything about golf knows about Pine Valley. The southern NJ golf course is always atop every golf magazine’s yearly list of “best courses in the US.”

It is also impossible to play, if you’re not a member of the ultra-exclusive club.

I’ve played Winged Foot and Baltusrol. I played Bethpage Black the day after the 2000 US Open. But I probably have no shot of ever playing Pine Valley.

Till today.

I just had to fly 8000 miles from New Jersey to do it.

It was quite the day. Star-Ledger reporter Kevin Manahan and I called for a taxi at about 6:30 this morning for the 30 minute ride from the Super 8. The first taxi pulled up, we showed the driver the directions. He looks at the sheet, grunts something in chinese, hands Manahan back the paper and floors it.

Without us.

This happened for 3 more taxis.

Finally, we get a guy to take us. The ride cost approx $13 usd. In NY, that ride would have been $70.

So, we get to the gate, and the guard speaks zero english. After 10 minutes of pointing and talking slower and louder, a golf cart pulls up and takes us away.

We’re in!

Apparently, this place isn’t easy to get on, either.

After checking in, it turns out we had the course to ourselves. We didn’t see another golfer on the course the entire day.

Manahan was writing about this for the paper, so we needed photos. There’s just one problem. Every time I picked up the camera, they told me “NO PHOTOS!”

I had a bad feeling this would happen, so i grabbed a tiny point and shoot before I left the hotel. I was able to sneak it out every once in a while and take a few pictures.

After grabbing rental clubs and shoes, we met our caddies. They were women, which is something I have never seen in the US.

They would jump on the back of the cart and say about the only thing they knew of english, “OK,” once they were on securely, so that I could pull away. After the first couple holes, they sized up our games pretty well. They had a good idea which club we’d need. They raked traps, filled divots and repaired ball marks. Not only did they read our putts, but marked, cleaned and aimed the ball for us. I tried to do this once for myself, but that clearly was offensive to them, so who am I to argue.

My favorite part, they were cheerleaders. Every good shot left them giddy with excitement! I stuck one close on a 197 yard par 3, I swear I have never heard 2 women make noise like that at the same time!

(Sorry honey 🙂 )

They read putts very well, though Manahan’s caddie was a much better green reader. She helped me on 3 putts, I made all three. Manahan gave me crap for stealing his caddie.

They would even yell at the ball for us.

“Go, go, go, go!”

They clearly took pride in their work. At one point, my caddie over clubbed me on an approach shot. I thought it was too much, but she tossed some grass in the air, “wind, very” she said as the grass came back towards us. I listened, but hit the ball 20 yards over the green. She was quite upset for talking me out of hitting the shorter club.

We made it to the 9th hole, a 563 yard par 5, the longest on the course. Before handing us the driver, our caddies gave us each a can of Red Bull! Not sure what they were trying to say, but it was hilarious.

Above, Manahan did a little dance after hitting the green on the 17th hole, a little island green. His caddie joined in.

In the end, it was quite the experience. We played 18 in a very un-New Jersey-like 3 hours. I wish we brought a change of clothes so we could have taken advantage of the spa.

Oh well, maybe next time.

I wasn’t keeping score, but they did it for us. I shot 83. Made a birdie. Made a few putts. Not bad for strange rental clubs.

So take that Pine Valley of NJ, we don’t need you!

But if you have an opening next Thursday…