The Top 100: Medinah #3
Part 1 of 100.
As some of you may recall, myself, Pat, and W.T. McCall made an informal pact, before we adjourned from college in May, to (among the three of us) play each and every one of the 100 best golf courses in the United States, as ranked by Golf Digest. Some would be relatively simple, as a sprinkling of courses on the list are open to the (deep-pocketed) public, the notable exception being Bethpage Black (frankly speaking, any jamoke with $50 can play there, so long as he's willing to camp out over night for a tee-time). Others would be a monumental challenge - for example, how exclusive is #51 on the list, Rich Harvest Links? It has a one-man membership committee (the owner, founder, and architect of the course, Jerry Rich) and counts about 25 members...in total. And then certain other courses represent the Holy Grail, a challenge that will, barring a miracle or overnight fame for one of us on an absurd magnitude, will take decades to tame (Augusta National, where they hold the Masters on CBS every year, comes to mind).
However, fate was with us as we knocked off one member of the Top 20 last May: the famed No. 3 Course at Medinah Country Club in Medinah, IL. Known for its iconic temple clubhouse, Medinah has played host to three US Opens and two PGA Championships, and will welcome the Ryder Cup (of Golf, alas, not pong) in 2012. The journey was made possible by pluck, determination, and the happy coincidence that my Uncle Marc (he of TurkeyGate fame) is a nationally-decorated PGA professional who's known Medinah's head pro for 20 years. An early sunrise broke over Lake Kadijah as this intrepid fivesome teed off from the same boxes where Tiger Woods diced up the competition just eight months earlier - notice Pat exhibiting his classic "free radical" behavior by being the only one of us who refused to pose with his driver.
Obviously there's no space to recount the entire round, so we'll just skip to the individual highlights:
George: Achieved goal #1 of nailing at least one long, perfect drive off the tee, using "the Tony Batista stance" at the fifth.
Pat: A pair of beautiful approaches over the water at the twin par-3s 13 & 17, setting up easy 3s on each.
Thomas: Carding the first birdie of the day for the group at the par-4 third, setting into motion one of the funniest conversations ever to take place on a golf loop.
Uncle Marc: Holing out from 190 yards for a 2 on the ninth.
Jordan, Assistant Pro (far left in photo): Getting paid to play 18 holes at Medinah.
Overall, Medinah is a tremendous set-up and it's not mind-numbingly difficult; although us average hacks ranged from fair to nearly double-par, the pros always enjoy playing here because the course has just enough of "go ahead, I dare you" opportunities in a round that they can attempt without being suicidal. There will be some very intriguing moments when match play comes here for the Ryder in 2012, particularly on those tricky par-3s. While long, the course is also very narrow, with most of the wide-open spaces occupying no-mans land between holes (which conveniently sets up a lot of walking grounds for the spectators). Accuracy comes first here, not power - make mistakes out of the tee-box, and you pay dearly for it. Keep it in the fairways and play your approaches right, you should be able to come out in one piece.
So, as of October 26th, 2007, we've played the following of the Top 100:
#11 - Medinah Country Club, Course #3 (George, Pat, & Thomas)Hey, nobody said this was gonna be easy. Until next time...
#26 - Bethpage State Park, Black Course (Pat)
#44 - Baltusrol Golf Club, Lower Course (Pat)
#93 - Harbour Town Golf Links (Pat)
Labels: The Quest for the Top 100