Saturday, September 24, 2011

North Shore Redux

1 New Leaf 10 Eden
2 Sahara 11Woods
3 Road 12 Hilltop
4 Highlands 13 St. Christopher’s
5 Biarritz 14 Double Plateau
6 Punchbowl 15 Dell
7 Bandon 16 Ravine
8 Pond 17 Short
9 Redan 18 Westward Ho!

Original, unedited post Not to ruffle the club, I followed the release. Doak appears was right in the Confidential Guide to Golf Courses after all. Steve Schaffer and Mark Hissey extensively researched the provenance and the comments after noted the original post. Here's today's take and the link gives you a first impression taking the presentation as given and documenting the course without confrontation. Read in whatever order you prefer. Notedly I used "shenanigans" in each.

North Shore Country Club on Long Island in New York is a special little place; I first visited in 2009 the spring after the financial crisis unfolded. The club had been particularly hard hit and was particularly vulnerable to the forces of the crisis. There had been a significant loss of members and the club had unwittingly become a notice in the Wall Street Journal as a victim directly affected by Bernie Madoff’s shenanigans. Fortunately that part of history is history. The MWGA (Metropolitan Golf Writers Association) was invited to a spring 2009 outing to help foster a more favorable press for the struggling club. A proud notation of Tillinghast as the designer was offered and curiously when all research was completed a single confirmation of Tillinghast ever being on site was uncovered. The club originally thought that Tillie was responsible for their course. An expert on Macdonald, Banks and Raynor thought that they were the architects and even Robert White’s name figured in the discussion since he had been the golf professional in early years. Persistence and diligence in research led to confirmation that this course was indeed the first of Seth Raynor. On-site visits from Charles Blair Macdonald coincided with his working on the nearby design at Piping Rock - one of the few bearing his name as designer of record, a bit of a coup in itself.

Much of the design historical information was eventually found in the records of a German Jewish City Club – The Harmonie Club (some actually in Gothic German) helping clear and confirm the unique and enviable place in the history of American Golf Architecture that the North Shore CC holds. My own first look at the club’s architecture was the then (and now) 13th hole - a challenging par 4 with a very tilted and contoured green; in and of itself, not necessarily a defining hole architecturally but one of considerable merit. It was however the 14th hole that first engaged me and led me to consider that someone other than Tillinghast was the designer. I felt that green was a hybrid Biarritz Double Plateau – having a diagonal trench and two flattish areas within the more than 10,000 square feet of putting surface. The scale and contours were in my experience fairly far out of the realm of Tillinghast’s style. Once I reached the then (and now) third hole with its magnificent Road Hole green complex MB&R came firmly to mind. Much existing architecture was enhanced, some altered and some bold new additions have been and are continuing under the hand of Tom Doak. Mike Butler the caddiemaster was my TourGuide able to answer many varied questions and offer up for review the newest changes and additions.

Every hole is now named; new green complexes responsible for the Biarritz at #5, Punchbowl at six, an expanded and relatively softened green in the hollow now Dell at fifteen and the short seventh – again somewhat drivable at 322? given the moniker “Bandon” honoring the two courses at that most attractive of destination resorts in North America. It most recalls characteristics of #6 at Pacific Dunes (In reach but with death to a hook with a finicky green) to me, but I’ll have to ask Tom to be certain. Green re-work has gone on at 4, 11 & 12 and expansion and/or modification is planned for 8 (Pond), 9 (Redan), 10 (Eden), 13 (St. Christopher’s) and the sublime par 5 sixteenth (Ravine).

The de novo construction of holes 1 & 2 and 17 & 18 constitute the wholesale changes with each pair being rebuilt on the footprint of the other. The new uphill #1 is New Leaf, the second is a drivable Sahara at 311. Seventeen is now a lovely Short (max 125) as of yet to yield an ace. It is one of if not the most contoured green Doak has built to date. Eighteen (Westward Ho!) at 639 will eventually yield to two shots as nothing is out of reach these days and the hole is downhill; a single fairway bunker on the left can easily be cleared by the longest hitters and there is no other hazard until the green complex. It seems to me another of Doak’s apparent homage to Mackenzie’s #16 at Crystal Downs – somewhat similarly devoid of hazards to outright slugging. There as here, it is not a concept I am particularly enamored with as my readers know I am not fond of long par 5’s nor of a fiver at 1, 9, 10 or 18. The green complex is bunkered short left and long right – favoring the draw preferred by long hitting right-handers, but difficult to pull off from a downhill lie. Thoughtful, but not engaging to me.

Planned green renovations are exciting to look forward to and bunkers will be re-worked; The eighth known as Pond has yet to be touched nor is the Redan 9th. North Shore has turned the corner and is a very worthy visit. It always was but not it is getting ready for the big stage. Always a wonderful place to go, it is already notably improved and more is on the way!

Routing - Very efficient and one also would not notice the new holes were you not to be aware of changes. Fairly large elevation change from below the 11th tee to the 12th green is all uphill, but in an appropriate part of the round.

Par 3’s - The four templates of MB&R all well done. From 120 to 250, short to Biarritz. Each is an excellent version whether Doak or Raynor.

Par 4’s - A rather great diversity from drivable at 2 & 7 to a healthy mid or long iron on three.

Par 5’s - Ravine will be the most beautiful as it is one of the most beautiful holes on Long Island - and a wonderful hole.

Cohesion - Integration of new into old is outstanding although the new greens being so new are easy to pick out.

Green Complexes - All very interesting whether new or old

Bunkering Schema - Raynor and Raynor-esque go hand in hand. Relatively forgiving fairway bunkers are welcomed.

Conditioning - It was very exciting to see a pulled core full out aeration of most of the fairways. The greens were perfect.

Appropriate Vegetation - Check. Nothing silly.

Ideality - more geared to the club player but all but the most skilled amateurs and touring pros will be challenged tee to green and all will be tested there, but not beat up.

Rest of Club - NO Kummel, I assume and Single Malts were few. All keeping in line with the relatively light-drinking typicality of such a club.

Milieu - Basically a stone's throw from LaGuardia dn the Long Island Expressway (LIE aka I-495) and even within shouting distance of Manhattan. Despite all of this one senses a very peaceful, relaxed detachment from the mayhem that constitutes a trip on the Cross-Bronx Expressway connecting this part of the world with the majority of the USA. GREAT Milieu.

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