(Written by Jim Allen) … The planning process for Golfest 2007 began with the best intentions, but ended up taking more twist and turns than an Indy car road race. It gave a whole new meaning to “seat of the pants” planning. Our intended mission was to dive into Virginia and North Carolina and knock off seven courses from our list, with the famed Pinehurst Resort being the centerpiece of the trip. How hard could that possibly be?
We would fly into Norfolk, play a couple of courses in Virginia, hop on a plane to Raleigh-Durham, play Pinehurst, scoot over to the North Carolina coast for a couple more, and fly home out of Myrtle Beach. Well … that all looked good on paper until Art Taylor and I spent eight hours one Saturday checking our flight options.
Getting from the left coast to the right coast was a piece of cake and pretty cheap. It was the middle flight, the extra $450, and the airport downtime that effectively wiped Virginia off our Golfest trip. After all, a day lost sitting in an airport was 36-holes not played. So we implemented PLAN B. This would require us to start a few miles up the road from where Golfest 2006 concluded in North Myrtle Beach. From there we would work our way up the Carolina coast to Tiger’s Eye and Rivers Edge, before finishing off the trip at Pinehurst.
Then the juggle-fest began again. If we were going to play Pinehurst on our planned dates, we were informed that we would be doing it on freshly aerated greens. That had about the same odds of happening as me fantasizing about Hillary Clinton posing naked in Playboy (holding back the gag reflex).
As a result, the schedule got juggled a couple more times, and now Pinehurst was on the front end of the trip. Unfortunately, the ultimate loser was Tiger’s Eye (rated #87) because no matter how hard we tried, their course was going to be punched when we arrived. Once again, think of Hillary naked!
So now the seven Top 100 courses were down to four – Pinehurst No. 2, No. 4, No. 8 and River’s Edge. Being the possessed hackers that we are, we decided to add a few non-rated, but highly recommended venues to our trip and have a good time. It was finally time to book some flights.
It was about this time that we discovered the next serious challenge. Let’s call this PLAN C! We were planning to fly back home on Friday, May 25th – which is just another Friday in May, right? Unless you don’t actually look at a calendar to find out that the following Monday is Memorial Day. Not only was this one of the busiest airport days of the year, it’s also a day that most airlines “black out” all of their rewards points and miles.
It was time to improvise again with an e-mail to the Golfestians – “what do you want to do?” In typical fashion, Jim Dee answered it within five minutes. It should be noted that when Mr. Dee receives an e-mail with the word “golf” in the subject line, he gets that same feeling as Uma Thurman did in Pulp Fiction, when John Travolta revived her by jamming the epinephrine needle directly in her heart. Pure adrenaline! ”Ding, You’ve got Golf Mail,” … boy, you better hope you are not sitting in front of his lap top – you could get hurt.
Dee’s answer was simple and to the point: Stay another day, and work in two more rounds of golf at the Barefoot Resort. Smart man! So there we have it: A Saturday to Saturday adventure, with nine rounds of golf sandwiched in the middle.
Now came the time to lock in the golfers. We had commitments from at least 20, but it took a strange twist — something resembling more of a hair pin turn. Let’s call it PLAN D. You know that feeling you get when your favorite NFL team puts together all of the right players for the Super Bowl run? But three weeks into the season, some of the key players go down with injuries and you just hope you make the playoffs. Then you lose a couple of more and you start looking forward to next year’s draft? It was a little like that.
Mr. Las Vegas — Rickey Berger — was the first person to go on the injured reserved list. He took a head over heels flip while making a sales call and blew out his shoulder. Besides Rickey, have you ever heard of anyone else who has been seriously hurt on a sales call? The Doc prescribed six months of no golf, which is tough to swallow for a man who has been golfing twice a week – every week – since he was 14. Rickey’s ace golf partner Craig Decker, who is allegedly employed at some alleged secret base in the alleged Nevada desert, did the alleged politically correct friend thing and dropped out also. That’s two down. Greg Jones and Brian Birdwell had to do the work gig – four down. And, a contingent of “you can’t have fun without me” spouses slaughtered the dreams of five others – nine down.
Oh, and let’s not forget about Tony Fernandes who had to cancel out at the last moment due to a wrist injury and a beautiful assortment of bruises delivered by his now ex-wife. Apparently, the little woman was trying to exterminate him at the time. A couple more whacks and Tony would’ve became fodder for one of those “who dunnit” forensic stories on the Discovery Channel. More proof that marriage is still the leading cause of divorce – which he promptly filed while we were gone.
However, one man’s loss is another man’s gain. We had three new additions to the trip –Kasey Scheidenlein, Spanky Hayes and Joe Arellanes. Kasey is Jim Dee’s son-in-law and is a dead ringer for Limp Bizkit lead singer Fred Durst, tattoos and all. Spanky is Kasey’s best friend, drinking partner, and golf adviser.
Joe Arellanes is a Territory Manager who was coaxed into making the trip at the last minute by Mark Suzda and me. Joe is a nice guy and fit in well with our group, taking his first real real vacation in a decade. He is the kind of person that would jump on a live grenade to save his friends. Luckily, we don’t have any grenades on Golfest because with the right amount of alcohol, someone might have called that bluff.
Joe also became our only Hispanic representative in our group. By the way, after a few cocktails, the last names of “Scheidenlein” and “Arellanes” are nearly impossible to pronounce. The rest of the this years 10-golfer group featured Jeffrey Adkins, Jim Dee, Bob Potts, Mark Suzda, Art Taylor, Mike Werner and me.
Our contingent flew into the Raleigh-Durham airport, rented cars, and made the 75-mile journey to Pinehurst. Luckily, we arrived in the early evening, which actually allowed us to find our way, because they don’t have too many well-lit street signs in the “back-woods” of North Carolina. There are lots of big trees – but few SIGNS! Nextel GPS and Hertz “Neverlost” got the job done.
The old Pinehurst Resort has a “seventh wonder of the world” appeal going for it. It’s a historic southern plantation hotel and resort that has class written all over it. Driving up the long entry road to the hotel, we felt the same rush that a ten-year gets when pulling into the Disneyland parking lot. The fact that we were there when the famed No. 2 course was celebrating its 100-year anniversary made it that much more special.
They definitely have the golf resort thing figured out at Pinehurst. Once you sign in at the front desk, they hand you two key items: (1). A tag for your clubs, and (2). A Pinehurst guest card. At that point, you literally have the run of the joint, including shuttle bus service, a daily buffet breakfast, and a full-blown dinner at any of the four resort restaurants. And somehow, your clubs mysteriously show up wherever you play. It’s the bomb!
Our group met at a restaurant/bar called “Hackers Bar & Grill” which turned out to be our most popular hang-out of the trip. It’s one of four quality restaurants that are located on the resort. With a name like Hackers, we expected cheeseburgers and danger dogs, but we were served pan-roasted Pork Chops, BBQ ribs, and even home-style meat loaf. I always loved the south and carried home about five extra pounds of evidence to prove it. They also kept the drinks coming at a rapid pace. We were joined by Kasey’s friend, Dave True, who was nearby for a business event and would join us for golf on Sunday. It was now time to let the games began.
Most of the 40 and over group retired around 10:30 p.m. That left Kasey, Spanky, Dave, and Joe. They stayed and enjoyed the spirits until the wee hours. That would be the same Joe that was well-coached on the flight out about the dangers of getting hammered early in a Golfest trip. Apparently, he had ear plugs in. When they arrived back at our two-unit, two-story condo around 3:30 a.m., they were about as quiet as a marching band on crack. Only six-hours remained until our first tee time.
Pinehurst No. 7 was on the agenda on Sunday morning. Speaking of seven, that is how many people were waiting at 8:00 a.m. for the shuttle bus to the breakfast buffet. Any guesses on which foursome missed the bus? The rest of us blew through an awesome breakfast, took the shuttle bus to No. 7, hit some balls and were standing on the first tee box at 9:30 a.m. The marching band made the call with just minutes to spare, looking a little green around the edges.
The opening act at Pinehurst gave us a great preview of things to come. The fairways were like carpet, the greens were perfectly manicured, the traps were in pristine condition, and the views made you wonder why this course wasn’t rated. It deserved to be. We got our first exposure to all of the Pinehurst-hype of being one of the toughest courses in the world from 50-yards in. It was common to be sitting 30 yards away from the pin in two, and ended up with a double-bogey. Go figure?
Despite a slight-case of alcohol poisoning, Spanky fired up his dangerous three-wood for the day’s best score – a 78. By the way, Kasey’s friend Dave was last seen a couple of fairways back, bracing his head against a tree – purging. Apparently some of the marching band members got ahold of some bad crack? A late lunch was dished up at a place called the Tavern. The rest of the night was enjoyed at a much slower pace. Some began the process of stocking the refrigerators will Red Bull, Ice Cream, and water. Most of us were conserving energy for Pinehurst No. 2, something that would require an 18-hole walk.
Pinehurst No. 2 has been described in magazines as the toughest course in the United States where you will not lose a golf ball. It was the site of the 2005 U.S. Open where New Zealand golfer Michael Campbell staved off an aggressive Tiger Woods to win the U.S. Open. The Donald Ross designed course is wide open, but features an abundance of strategically placed traps and something new to our golf vocabulary – “CROWNED GREENS.”
What in the heck is a crowned green you ask? Let’s put it this way: If you pitch or chip it up short, don’t move, because your ball is going roll up, stop, reverse course, and roll right back to your feet. To describe it another way, it’s like putting on top of a turtle shell. Two feet too far, and it rolls off. Two feet short? Same predicament.
The first foursome included a pair of Jim’s – Allen & Dee – against Jeffrey and Mike in our usual skins game. The second group featured Spanky, Kasey, and Mark, followed by the threesome of Bob, Art & Joe. Throw in some caddies and it was a great day – no lost balls in the entire group. After the obligatory photo opp next to the Payne Stewart statue, we were back for naps or massages.
Dinner was scheduled later that evening in the prestigious Carolina Room in the main hotel. This elegant restaurant first opened in 1901 and required a Golfest first – a sports coat. If I must say so myself, our group dresses up nicely. We were treated to an excellent five course meal, served by a waitress who was funnier than heck. She helped make it a great experience.
Tuesday would dish up 36-holes of golf at No. 4 & No. 8, both rated courses on our list. By coincidence, it also turned out to be one of the more humid days on the trip. While No. 7 served up a preview, and No. 2 dished up some history, No. 4 & No. 8 presented the scenic views and most unique golf holes. Lots of water, lots of elevation changes, and more than its fair share of risk-reward golf holes. Between rounds, most of us played tourist and dropped big chunks of money at the pro shop. If you have an empty sports room or den in your home, you can deck it out completely at this pro shop, but bring your VISA card.
After breakfast the next morning, we all piled into our respective rental vehicles and headed from Pinehurst to the Atlantic Ocean, in search of the Oyster Bay Golf Course. Along the way, we got a great tour of the laid back south. You know all of those jokes that they tell on the Blue Collar Comedy Tour? The one’s about rednecks and the south? Stuff about mobile homes, cars on blocks, window air conditioners propped up with posts, and people and “dawgs” sitting on porches with nothing to do? After this three-hour road trip, we came to the conclusion that it is ALL true, because we saw it first hand.
We arrived at Oyster Bay about an hour and a half before our scheduled tee time. Most of our g roup hung out at the massive bar and wolfed down hot dogs and cocktails. Others shopped in the adjoining pro shop, which was big enough to be a full-blown restaurant.
Just before our tee time, we were given the “Oyster Bay is one of the top 100 courses in the United States” speech by the starter and bag loaders. Considering that our group has a lot of experience in this department, they had actually raised the bar too high. In fact, Oyster Bay probably enjoyed a great heyday when it opened 25-years ago, but it was looking tired and a little rough around the edges. It was just a nice old golf course – forget the rating part.
The unique characteristic about Oyster Bay is the abundance of oyster shells that are used to highlight features around the course. Incidentally, those babies are sharp when you fall on them. Ask me how I know that? Oyster Bay also gave us our first exposure of the trip to “on course” gators. No injuries to report.
After the round, we headed south towards South Carolina and our fine accommodations at the Barefoot Resort. Most of us had a serious Italian food craving and the help at Oyster Bay recommended an Italian joint on Highway 17. We found it, but few were impressed by the building. I decided to scout it out. The place smelled like old socks and like Oyster Bay, may have been 20-years past its prime. Mike and Jeffrey decided to stay while the rest of us headed for the always reliable Outback. Mike and Jeffrey swore it was the best Italian food they ever ate, which it probably was — once they got over the smell.
Our group bounced out of bed the next morning and headed back across the border to the Rivers Edge golf course. It’s located about 35-miles up the road on the Shallotte River. This course expressed personality in a big way and showcased some of the most scenic golf holes we have ever seen. It looked like Arnold Palmer had it easy when he designed this course, because it doesn’t look like a single tree was moved or that a single bulldozer every touched the grounds. Six of the holes sit upon bluffs that overlook two miles of marshlands bisected by the river. To say there was no margin for error on that side of the fairway would be an understatement. The interior holes were cut between freshwater lakes on a rolling layout. If the opportunity presented itself, most of us would return to play this course again.
The second 18 of the day was also river-related. The venue was the Glen Dornoch Waterway Golf Links, located in Little River, South Carolina. We grabbed some grub in their waterfront club house and were off with the assistance of some Intracoastal Waterways 15-mph winds. While the Rivers Edge was like visiting a nature preserve, Glen Dornoch was more a great golf course that featured a continuous boat show. Everything from fishing boats and jet skis, to tour boats and huge casino paddle boats paraded up and down the Waterway next to the course.
It’s kind of strange hitting an approach shot at a green with a six-story backdrop of a gambling boat floating by. Either way, it was a challenging course and we had a great time. At this point in the trip we had conquered seven courses in the past five days. We were tiring fast.
On our trip back to Barefoot, we discovered that the Memorial Day weekend hosts “Black Bike Week” in Myrtle Beach. The town was anticipating the arrival of more than 4000 African-American motorcycle enthusiasts from across the United States – on crotch rockets. Special barriers were set up on the roads and there was — conservatively – at least three police cruisers on every block. All of a sudden Myrtle Beach became the safest place on the planet. The sound of Kawasaki Ninja’s ripping through the gears in a zero to 60 speed explosion was the norm; usually followed by the sounds of sirens. And to think that this isn’t listed in any of the tourism brochures?
We would only need to drive about a quarter mile the next morning for the Golfest finale at the Barefoot Resort — which is actually home of four great courses. It gave us all a few extra minutes to sleep in. Since we had already conquered the rated Love and Fazio courses in 2006, we decided to try out the other two. On the scorecard was a morning round at the Dye Course, followed by an afternoon adventure on Norman’s course. Both were equally impressive. Just about everyone shot their best scores on the final day. Art Taylor shot a career best 96 on the Dye Course. After already knocking out 126 holes, most of us didn’t need much time on the range. It took about five balls to pop a couple of vertebra back into their proper positions, and … BAM … we were ready to go. Practice swings? “Hah … , we don’t need to stinkin’ practice swings!” If you didn’t know what you had by then, you didn’t need a golf cart, you needed a short bus.
The Dye course has a killer clubhouse that features custom woodwork everywhere, giving it that “private men’s club, cigar-smoking, poker-table, law-library, glass of cognac” type of feel. Bob Potts was in the zone at Pete’s place, coming to life with an awe-inspiring 74. This would be the same guy who shot a 91 on Pinehurst No. 7, proving that Golfest can massage your ego one day, and kick you in the nuts on another.
Many of us played up the Kasey Scheidenlein/Fred Durst look-a-like deal with the cart girls at the Norman course – resulting in several free drinks. Since we were all wearing the same Golfest shirts, it was easy to sell the alleged fact that we were his managers, while others were his body guards, the Limp Bizkit tour bus driver, and entourage. I think Kasey even ended up signing some autographs in the process.
In fact, Kasey exposed us to a whole generation of body art enthusiasts. One night while having dinner at Outback, a young lady bartender was admiring his tattoos. Kasey gave her the obligatory guided tattoo tour while sitting at the bar. Next thing we know, she is flipping up her shirt showing us hers. Heck, I dream about that kind of stuff.
After the Norman round, our group bellied up to the entire 30 foot length of the Barefoot bar for a celebration drink or two. Some of them were more potent then others. Jeffrey Adkins kept his non-drinking streak alive at seven months and counting – which is tough to do on a trip featuring this kind of peer pressure. It is all part of Jeffrey’s master plan to reduce his cholesterol levels, which are hovering around 8500. Side effects include the lack of nausea, lack of Golfest injuries and the ability to bounce out of bed in the morning.
From Norman’s course, we cruised down the street to (Greg) Norman’s restaurant. A few of us painfully white Caucasian guys and our token Hispanic guy – all of us over 40 years old — rolled down the windows of the rental mini-van to check out some of the Black Bike Week activities. We were treated to the whole show as we motored up the main drag. There was a ton o’money tied up in these rides, not to mention a lot of talent sitting on the back of many. And like most bike weeks, there was a fair amount of skin being displayed by the women. Many were in the Halle Barry category, while others seriously tested the capacity of the shock absorbers (think Star Jones in hot pants — before the diet.) We eventually made it to Norman’s, but not before laughing our asses off, getting dealt some hot-mama air-kisses, and some video of some of the whale-tail (think … THONG!) showing women on the crotch rockets. We are so easily entertained, aren’t we? And to think this show was thrown in at no extra charge!
We racked up a $700 dinner tab and didn’t have a single complaint from any members of our party. We ate and drank like kings because it had been another great trip. It all came down to the best laid plans (A, B, C & D) — and it was time to start planning the 2008 version.