Saturday, May 25, 2013

New Look at Lehigh

Ron Forse & Jim Nagle (Happy Birthday, Jim!) working a master Plan at Lehigh.  Here's some great updates. All enlargeable by clicking.

Rating Team from GAP rated changes to LCC Par 70(Every other is a Hybrid):

Black       73.0/132
Purple      71.7/129
Blue         70.5/128
Lt. Blue    66.7/127
White       69.1/125
Pink         65.9/123
Red          65.4/122

"Ladies Ratings", TBD              

People forget we are only an hour from William Penn on the Philly City Hall in their quest to belt notch Pine Valley and Merion.  Sorry, we do not have ribbon wide fairways nor calf-length rough, just world-class routing and greens by William Flynn.

My Criteria: (Critically and very harshly applied in a catholic manner) see right>
Routing: Absolute masterclass.  A very challenging property to lay a top golf course, Flynn used Anti-clockwise peripheral route for first nine, internal basically clockwise for second.  Three times up & down the hill, two on front, one on back. Three stream crossings, all reasonable, two holes alongside.  Very luxurious corridors of holes, width used to enhance strategy.
Holes (3, 4, 5): Tough nut of Par 3's, common for Flynn, generally longish with fair-sized targets, quite varied and spread through round.  Par 4's include charming and strategic short holes with superior strategic flexibility.  Lengthening limited sanely to longest holes where it's most needed and best used. #6 Par 5 very links-inspired, now 585 from back tees, no cupcake.  #1 most controversial but clever use of very severe terrain.  3 to 7+ are in play. I think #1, #11 and #18 are candidates for weakest hole, but one other member architectural critic has #11 as his favourite, so there you go ...
Cohesion: Very much a golf course with flow, not a collection of holes to play.
Bunkering Schema: Lightly bunkered although flanking Right and left greenside bunkers used a few too many times.  Holes such as 5, 8, 9, 10, 12 don't and are far greater because of it. A coouple of fairway bunkers (Notably #10) superbly placed, triple penalised by trees between green & bunker.  Easy enough to fix in an afternoon with a chainsaw and a crane. Flynn not golf's bunker genius anyway.
Conditioning: Good to at times very good.  Greens need help with surface drainage to make speed consistent from green to green (#10 gets extremely fast, #13 remains very slow - can be 1.5 feet stimp different),  One only notices this playing 50+ times a year in season. Rough - rather penal when it's been wet, fantastic if dry and low humidity, fairways hold moisture too long, don't remain fast enough long enough.  (Conditioning comments only from a very critical analysis) If members read, they'll think I'm crazy.  After 1000+ courses, one notices things is all I can say
Appropriate Vegetation: See for yourself, some unnecessary beautification, but hey! It's a "Country Club".  Does not affect play except for debris.
Ideality: The Foozler and the high-calibre player are each at home here.  Even The Good Doctor Mackenzie would have approved! Rarely does this get better than here.
The Rest & Milieu:  Lumped together because it is a fine country Club.  The course itself is so good, it should be a golf club, reserved for players and general nuts.  It succeeds as a country Club superbly, managed by a fine, talented manager, but I just need a place to play golf and a better Gin & Whisky selection.  I'll admit to being a round peg in a square hole .... but I wouldn't belong anywhere else until I got to Applebrook in the Philly suburbs, - an hour of truly fine golf courses away - for my tastes or Plainfield an hour in another direction.

I'm sure some of these comments will be mis-interpreted.  Read above carefully and in the spirit of the eternal critic. This is a truly superior course!

#1 Tee 2013

a few years ago

New back tee 445y
#1 mid
#2 Tee
All the way back 375y
Left landing
90 out, semi-blind
behind green #2
 #3 Tee
from 230 tee
#4 back tee (new) 375y

 #4 front shoulder
 #4 from green to river
 New #5 tee 420y,
New #5 bunker (larger, deeper, farther) very challenging to carry
#5 Approach
#5 Green Complex with fairway left
#5 False Front

#6 New Back tee 585y
 150 out
narrow, canted green complex opening
Old #7 Tee View
#7 from top now 227y
 #7 New forward tee (150y)  
 #7 from 8 tee
New tees on #8, all re-worked, back added 420 + 80' uphill
 #8 Green complex (more later after sand pile removed
New #9 tee 447y and #8 green behind
 9 Green from right fw bunker, for discussion ...
#9 Green (I prefer no Arborvides behind ...)

#10 New tee 450y
Triple Jeopardy from L bunker (for starters trees & no fairway over the perfectly placed bunker)
 Behind one of Flynn's finest green complexes anywhere,  From here one can appreciate triple jeopardy - trying to keep the ball left on a canting fairway, challenging the perfect fairway bunker, access to the left side of the fairway past the fairway bunker 50 yards from the green for the approach to this supremely good green is completely unavailable. Just three trees ...

#11 rollicking mounded fairway over the hill to the green over the stream. 533y

#12, often a fave hole by visitors 390y

#13 185y

 note the spine
#14 380y + 75' uphill

 #14 green and newly cleared ridge near 11 tee
 14 green left, #11 tee, #15 tee, #10 green
Not exactly the same view in the past, great improvement

#15 new back tee 420y
 #15 standard tee
 #15 inside corner of dogleg, not the place to be
 #15 Approach from left, preferred by those who understand
#16 (175y back) older view, more shrubbery, round tees

New with less shrubbery (for now ...) and squared expanded tees (front shown)
#17, (420 y) a wonderful golf hole very difficult to present on imaging.  Very well-conceived green complex with a severe false front penalty, much cleared out from before but still too many trees down the right side.

An old view showing the inconceivably choking tree planting.
Old forward tee, note the cramped feel
Broad sweeping view showing right sided plantings
 Currently much more open showing the wonderful natural fairway contours
 Attractive jig-saw bunker complex
 Two of these were removed on Tuesday - 4 June - as the thought was that too many had been put back in place of the removed Evergreens!
Previous growth right side of 17 (also on R on #18)

#17 from false front
Entire hole with elevation changes apparent from behind
Actually from 18 tee showing old dense grove of evergreens on right (also R of 17)
#18 from 470 tee (new) also note thinning

Old view of 18, front regular tees

[new 18 green complex]

I've a few more to come, Still over-treed but vastly improved. Lehigh is a curious place, a "Country Club" so deeply rooted in the definition that golf probably is relegated to about third place in importance to the rank & file member.  It is not meant as an indictment although it has been taken that way when I have expressed the opinion before, but Lehigh surely is the least appreciated truly GREAT golf course of the Country Club ilk. I venture that there is not a better versed architectural critic that knows Lehigh Country Club better and more intimately than I do after 15 year as a member, too many rounds to calculate and perhaps 3000 or more photographs,  It is not a club rife with golf nuts, those who live and breathe for the game in its essence, it is foremost a social and business club with an enormously good golf course - able to test the most skilled and to be little chore for the foozler.  It is relatively hard to lose a ball there, but whilst the members know they have an excellent course, most haven't a clue why it is good nor HOW GOOD it is.  There is still some lamentation over the loss of ancient (less than 50 year old) trees. Most can probably now acknowledge that conditioning is the best in years and more consistent day to day, so good riddance trees although at least 50 more are begging to be removed by those who know why to do so.  This course can even be better, it is easily, architecturally speaking in the Top 100 courses in America - but it could be Top 50.  A nearby  Country Club is far more famous due to its long-standing relationship with the USGA, but one would be hard pressed to choose a hole from their 60 to replace a hole at Lehigh with said hole. It is challenging to pick a weak or least favourite golf hole at Lehigh and one will usually do so by picking a hole that doesn't play to one's strengths, fit one's eyes nor yield to one's advances.  At the best courses, one has toplay that game with knowledgeable mates and one will find nearly as many answers as there are people in the discussion.  Certainly anyone who cares enough to follow my blog is welcome at Lehigh to come and play.