FX Excursions

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The Architects Golf Club Review

by Francis X. Gallagher

Aug 15, 2020

© FRANCIS X. GALLAGHER

August 2020

In May, as golf courses were just beginning to reopen, I scanned the internet and failed time and time again to book a foursome until I came across The Architects Golf Club in Lopatcong, New Jersey. The course is more than an hour from my home and nearly equidistant for two other players in our group: Chris (Yammi) Ottaunick, driving from Long Island, New York, and Mark (Marky) Lane, driving from northeastern New Jersey. Jim ( Jimmy) Bolger joined us and took the trek with me. All these gents serve on the Global Traveler Advisory Board. We had an early start with a 7:04 a.m. tee time. All sorts of rules were in play due to COVID-19. We were told we could not share a cart (this rule no longer applies), the clubhouse was temporarily closed, and groups teeing off were spaced every 15 minutes rather than 10. There were no ball washers, and the holes were plugged with cut pool noodles to stop the communal reaching in the cup or pulling the flag. (The USGA allowed flags to remain in holes for nearly two years to speed play.) There were no score cards, but I had printed out a copy, and we made do.

Inspired by owners Dennis and Larry Turco, The Architects course was developed in 2001 to pay tribute to the greatest golf course architects. Under the guiding eyes of Stephen Kay, golf course architect, and Ron Whitten, architectural editor, Golf Digest, the course honors 70 years of terrific course designers such as Tillinghast, Donald Ross and Robert Trent Jones. (I hope they paid royalties to use these names!)

HOLE 1 OLD TOM MORRIS
509 yards, par 5

Old Tom Morris, considered by many the father of golf, was a club maker, ball maker and four-time winner of the British Open, based at the mother of all golf courses, St. Andrews. I reviewed St. Andrews in the first issue of Global Traveler in February 2004 and have lots of great stories about the trip to Scotland.

The opening hole, a straight par 5, uses the topography of the land, adding bunkers on the side to catch wayward shots. Morris often used existing hazards including old stone walls in his designs — fun if your ball rolls against them. The green sits on a high point, offering beautiful views of the fairway behind. A great start and four fine drives got us on our way. Somehow Yammi and Marky pulled out opening pars while Jimmy and I scored bogeys — Tom must have been pleased.

HOLE 2 C.B. MACDONALD
195 yards, par 3

Continuing with the father theme, Charles Blair Macdonald is considered the father of American golf architecture. Macdonald lived most of his life in Chicago but attended school at St. Andrews, Scotland, where he came under the tutelage of Old Tom Morris. Using steam shovels to pile soil on rocky earth to create greens and fairways was one of his signatures; in a similar way, bulldozers created the Hole 2 pedestal green surrounded by strip bunkers. Jimmy and I nailed perfect shots to the green for par while Marky found one of the bunkers and Yammi had a “chili dip” chip, both carding a bogey.

HOLE 9 DONALD ROSS
447 yards, par 4

Donald Ross courses have a cult following, and having been a member of the Torresdale Frankford Country Club (now owned by the Union League of Philadelphia), I know the way Ross uses traps and greens to make a course more challenging. Ross was America’s best-known and most productive architect, known for Pinehurst No. 2, Oakland Hills in Michigan, Oak Hill in New York, Scioto in Columbus, East Lake in Atlanta, Beverly in Chicago, Brae Burn in Boston, Seminole in Florida, Oyster Harbors on Cape Cod, Plainfield in New Jersey and Wannamoisett in Rhode Island.

Hole 9 offers a great finish for the front, with the clubhouse as your goal behind the green. Yammi pulled out all he had and nailed a ball down the fairway, with Jimmy and Marky following right behind. (Were mulligans involved? I will never tell.) I struggled with a triple bogey, not helping my front nine score; this is why some call him Donald “blanking” Ross!

HOLE 11 WILLIAM FLYNN
544 yards, par 5

Any Philadelphian can tell you Flynn is the most respected golf course architect. He contributed to the East Course at Merion under the design of Hugh Wilson and stayed on as the greenskeeper. He went on to create some of the greatest golf courses in the world, helping make Philadelphia a mecca of golf course perfection. His gems include Philadelphia Country Club, Rolling Green, Huntingdon Valley, Lehigh, Manufacturers and Philmont (many reviewed in GT). Outside of the Delaware Valley his credits include Cherry Hills in Denver; Cascades in Virginia; The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts; and Shinnecock Hills on Long Island.

Hole 11 represents the twisting dogleg Flynn frequently designed (Rolling Green in Springfield, Pennsylvania, is a perfect example). He disliked artificiality on his golf holes. Yammi, Marky and Jimmy obtained a trio of pars, and I failed to card better than a bogey. The golfer who sprays shots will be forgiven at The Architects, which has overall wide fairways and clear rough areas.

HOLE 18 ROBERT TRENT JONES
400 yards, par 4

Robert Trent Jones was a prolific designer and open to working and communicating with others in the industry. A graduate of Cornell in New York, he understood networking could improve his career. Bobby Jones and RTJ, for example, collaborated to design Peachtree in Atlanta and remodeled Augusta National. RTJ was known as the Open Doctor for his preparation of courses for the U.S. Open.

The weather showed hints of rain as we teed up for long drives on the last hole. Jimmy took the honor of the farthest tee shot, but Yammi was the only one to contain his composure to finish with par. Making the green in two can be challenging — as Jones would say, “an easy bogey and a difficult par.”

As the clubhouse was not open, we retired to a more distant spot in the parking lot and had a tailgate of snacks and ice-cold beer. COVID or not, golf continues!

THE ARCHITECTS GOLF CLUB
700 Strykers Road
Lopatcong, NJ 08865
tel 908 213 3080
thearchitectsclub.com

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