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Is there something wrong with me?

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Is there something wrong with me (or even you)? Quite possibly. As a boy I lived right next to one of the holes on Bend of the River 9 hole Golf Course in Hadley, NY. I have never had the opportunity to play a round there. Not as a kid and not as an adult. 

As a golf course goes, it’s really nothing all that special, its uniqueness lies in that it was my first experience with golf. Just like many of you (you do have one don’t you?), I have a "must play" golf course list. Actually, it is an excel spreadsheet. This list is a constant work in progress, I always seem to be adding new courses, yet never crossing off enough of the ones I have played.

The courses in black have been played (see inset pic) , the courses in light gray are waiting (impatiently) to be played. So much golf to play and so little time to do so. Surprisingly, my list is void of Pine Valley, Augusta National,Winged Foot, Seminole (this is my Augusta), Olympic Club, Riviera, Oakmont, Merion, and the like. I am a realist and I understand that about as close I’ll get to playing those historic venues is owning a scorecard from there! No, my list has golf courses, both public and private, that I hope to get a chance to play. Of course, if someone from Seminole called and invited me to play, I would be there tomorrow, maybe even sooner. My list is almost 100% accessible, my only handicap or obstacle is money and time or even both. I seem to be on a mission to play as many "new" courses as possible and at times I get disappointed when I have to play the same course over again. This may be why I have been reluctant to join a private club. I’ll join one eventually, but for now I have a pressing need to make a dent in my list.

Resort golf courses? Sure, got a bunch on there; TPC Sawgrass, Sea Island, The Greenbrier, Whistling Straights, Pebble Beach and friends, Kiawah Island, and about 30 courses near Myrtle Beach. Courses that you may never have heard of; Cape Arundel in Maine, Rip Van Winkle Country Club in the Catskills (NY), The Presidio in California, Miami Shores GC (Donald Ross’ last designed course), Hyde Park Country Club near Jacksonville, Florida (I have to best Ben Hogan’s 11 on a par 3 there), both Donald Ross courses on Fort Bragg, NC (Stryker and Ryder) and The Bayonet and Blackhorse courses at the now defunct Fort Ord in northern California just to name a few. Overseas? Ireland, Scotland and England, I won’t even go there, that list is way too long. I may never want to come home once I golf there. We’ll be going to Northern Ireland soon, on a family vacation. Royal County Down and Royal Portrush, here I come. Alaska? I went there for three weeks a few years back to camp and hike all over. I passed up on playing golf at 2am in the morning, I am still kicking myself for that one.  Unfortunately for me, I have pretty much "exhausted" all my choices in the greater Cincinnati area, both public and private. Ultra exclusive Camargo Club (#55 on America’s 2007-08 Top 100 Private Courses that you can’t play), it is Cincinnati’s toughest course to get on, and I played it twice. Fortunately, I still have Columbus and Cleveland to make a dent in. Heck,  Kentucky is right across the river and Indiana is a hop, skip and a putt away.  Luckily for me, my in-laws live in Michigan and we frequent there fairly often. In case you didn’t know it, Michigan is chock full of incredible golf courses.  Maybe more golf courses than you could actually play in a lifetime. My goal this year was to get in 40 additional "new" golf courses. I am stuck at 27 with a slim hope of making it to 35 before winter. Of course, I played no less than 10 courses that I have already played in the past as well. I’ll be passing through northwestern Pennsylvania at the end of the month.  I am meeting up with a few old friends from Connecticut to squeeze in a few rounds of golf in a weekend before winter finally sets in. We are playing Scottish Heights, Treasure Lake Silver and Bavarian Hills. Never heard of them? Neither have I. They’ll get me to 30, but still ten short of my goal of 40 new golf courses. My friends don’t know it, but on my way back home I’ll stop and play America’s oldest continually operated golf course, Foxburg Country Club.  They have been playing golf there since 1887. A classic, old school  9 hole course, complete with postage stamp sized greens and a golf museum in the clubhouse. I don’t think I am anywhere near an obessive-compulsive disorder (am I, or are you?) with my excel spreadsheet of courses, after all I still haven’t typed in Augusta National. The number one course I want to play in the USA? That’s easy, Bend of the River Golf Course. It’ s been over 31 years since a young boy of 9 sat on the tee box selling golf balls to guys teeing off, watching them in their funny plaid pants joking around, (being with your buddies is a big part of golf) and hitting their drives (many of which sliced into the treeline and I later found their golf balls only to sell them to another foursome the next day or a few hours later) up the hilly fairway. I am thinking that after I play there, I just might let go of this ever increasing golf course list, err spreadsheet. Well, I doubt it, because I’ll surely discover four more golf courses that I’ll need to play on the way home! Reality tells me that I’l never come close to playing all the courses on my ever growing list. It’s just not possible. However, my motivation tells me that I’ll go down swinging in an effort to do just that.

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  1. Brook Siudy

    Aug 31, 2007 at 8:28 pm

    Did you ever happen to know some one about your age named Mark Siudy or maybe the Siudy family? They all grew up in Hadley and played Bend of the River. I am Mark’s 17 year old son, small world huh.

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Courses

Kingston Heath: The Hype is Real

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We touched ground late in the afternoon at Melbourne Airport and checked in very, very late at hotel Grand Hyatt. Don’t ask about our driving and navigating skills. It shouldn’t have taken us as long as we did. Even with GPS we failed miserably, but our dear friend had been so kind to arrange a room with a magnificent view on the 32nd floor for us.

(C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

The skyline in Melbourne was amazing, and what a vibrant, multicultural city Melbourne turned out to be when we later visited the streets to catch a late dinner. The next morning, we headed out to one of the finest golf courses that you can find Down Under: Kingston Heath. We had heard so many great things about this course, and to be honest we were a bit worried it almost was too hyped up. Luckily, there were no disappointments.

Early morning at Kingston Heath C) Jacob Sjöman.

Here’s the thing about Kingston Heath. You’re driving in the middle of a suburb in Melbourne and then suddenly you see the sign, “Kingston Heath.” Very shortly after the turn, you’re at the club. This is very different than the other golf courses we’ve visited on this trip Down Under, where we’ve had to drive for several miles to get from the front gates to the club house.

(C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

Nevertheless, this course and its wonderful turf danced in front of us from the very first minute of our arrival. With a perfect sunrise and a very picture friendly magic morning mist, we walked out on the course and captured a few photos. Well, hundreds to be honest. The shapes and details are so pure and well defined.

(C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

Kingston Heath was designed by Dan Soutar back in 1925 with help and guidance from the legendary golf architect Dr. Alister MacKenzie, who added to its excellent bunkering system. Dr. MacKenzie’s only design suggestion was to change Soutar’s 15th hole from a 222-yard par-4 (with a blind tee shot) to a par-3. Today, this hole is considered to be one the best par-3 holes Down Under, and I can understand why.

I am normally not a big fan of flat courses, but I will make a rare exception for Kingston Heath. It’s a course that’s both fun and puts your strategic skills to a serious test. Our experience is that you need to plan your shots carefully, and never forget to stay out of its deep bunkers. They’re not easy.

The bunker shapes are brilliant. (C) Jacob Sjöman.

Kingston Heath is not super long in distance, but it will still give you a tough test. You definitely need to be straight to earn a good score. If you are in Melbourne, this is the golf course I would recommend above all others.

Next up: Metropolitan. Stay tuned!

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Courses

Barnbougle Lost Farm: 20 Holes of Pure Joy

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Another early day in Tasmania, and we were exploring the Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw-design, Barnbougle Lost Farm. The course was completed in 2010, four years after the neighbor Barnbougle Dunes, resulting in much excitement in the world of golf upon opening.

Johan and I teed off at 10 a.m. to enjoy the course at our own pace in its full glory under clear blue skies. Barnbougle Lost Farm starts out quite easy, but it quickly turns into a true test of links golf. You will certainly need to bring some tactical and smart planning in order to get close to many of the pin positions.

The third hole is a prime example. With its sloping two-tiered green, it provides a fun challenge and makes you earn birdie — even if your tee and approach shots put you in a good position. This is one of the things I love about this course; it adds a welcome dimension to the game and something you probably don’t experience on most golf courses.

(C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

The 4th is an iconic signature hole called “Sals Point,” named after course owner Richard Sattler’s wife (she was hoping to build a summer home on the property before it was turned into a golf course). A strikingly beautiful par-3, this hole is short in distance but guarded with luring bunkers. When the prevailing northwesterly wind comes howling in from the ocean, the hole will leave you exposed and pulling out one of your long irons for the tee shot. We left No. 4 with two bogeys with a strong desire for revenge.

Later in the round, we notice our scorecard had a hole numbered “13A” just after the 13th. We then noticed there was also an “18A.” That’s because Barnbougle Lost Farm offers golfers 20 holes. The designers believed that 13A was “too good to leave out” of the main routing, and 18A acts as a final betting hole to help decide a winner if you’re left all square. And yes, we played both 13A and 18A.

I need to say I liked Lost Farm for many reasons; it feels fresh and has some quirky holes including the 5th and the breathtaking 4th. The fact that it balks tradition with 20 holes is something I love. It also feels like an (almost) flawless course, and you will find new things to enjoy every time you play it.

The big question after trying both courses at Barnbougle is which course I liked best. I would go for Barnbougle Dunes in front of Barnbougle Lost Farm, mostly because I felt it was more fun and offered a bigger variation on how to play the holes. Both courses are great, however, offering really fun golf. And as I wrote in the first part of this Barnbougle-story, this is a top destination to visit and something you definitely need to experience with your golf friends if you can. It’s a golfing heaven.

Next course up: Kingston Heath in Melbourne.

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Courses

Barnbougle Dunes: World Class Golf

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We arrived to Launceston Airport in Tasmania just before sunset. Located on the Northeast Coast of Australia’s island state, Tasmania, Barnbougle is almost as far from Sweden as it gets… yet it immediately felt like home when we arrived.

Launceston Airport, Tasmania. (C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

The drive from the airport was just over an hour, taking us through deep forests and rolling hills before we arrived to Barnbougle Golf Resort, which consists of two courses — The Dunes and Lost Farm — a lodge, two restaurants, a sports bar and a spa. Unfortunately, it was pitch black outside and we couldn’t see much of the two courses on our arrival. I would like to add that both Johan and I were extremely excited about visiting this golf mecca. We later enjoyed a tasty dinner at the Barnbougle Lost Farm Restaurant before we called it a day.

The locals at Barnbougle Dunes. (C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

The next day, we woke up early and got out to The Dunes Course as very first guests out. Well, to be quite honest, we weren’t actually the first out. There were a few locals — Wallabies, lots of them — already out on the course. The natural landscape at Barnbougle is fantastic and my cameras almost overheated with the photo opportunities. After two intense hours of recording videos and producing photos both from ground, we headed back to Lost Farm for a wonderful breakfast (and view). After our breakfast, it was time to try our luck.

“Tom’s Little Devil.” Hole No.7 at Barnbougle Dunes. (C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

Before describing our experience playing the courses, I would like to mention about Richard Sattler, a potato farmer and owner of Barnbougle. In the early 2000’s, Richard was introduced to U.S. golfing visionary Mike Keiser, who had heard about his amazing stretch of farmland in Tasmania and came down to visit. Mike convinced Richard that Barnbougle (which at that stage was a potato farm and still grows potatoes and raises cattle today) might be perfect for creating a top quality golf course.

After an introduction to well renowned golf architect Tom Doak and the formation of a partnership with former Australian golf pro and golf architect Mike Clayton, the development of the Barnbougle Dunes Course commenced.

The walk between the 4th and 5th holes. (C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

Featuring large bunkers dotted between fun rolling fairways shaped from the coastal dunes, Barnbougle Dunes offers the golfer some tough challenges, in particular on the first nine. This is indeed a course that will entertain all kinds of golfers.

After our round, we looked back at some fantastic highlights such as playing the iconic 7th hole, a short par-3 called ”Tom’s Little Devil,” as well as the beautiful par-4 15th. We were just two big walking smiles sitting there in the restaurant to be honest. Lets also not forget one of the biggest (and deepest) bunkers I’ve seen at the 4th hole. The name of the bunker is “Jaws.” Good times!

As a small surprise for Johan, I had arranged a meeting after our round with Richard Sattler. Richard, ever the farmer, entered the car parking just in front of the clubhouse in a white pick-up van with a big smile un his face. We talked to Richard for almost 30 minutes. He is an extremely humble man and left such a warm impression on us. Richard explained the Barnbougle story: how it all began and the property today.

To me, this is a high-end golf destination offering something very unique with two world-class courses in Barnbougle Dunes and Barnbougle Lost Farm, both ranked in the top-100 greatest golf courses by Golf Digest and Golf Magazine (U.S.). With the courses located just next to each other, it’s probably one of the best golf resorts you can find down under and a golf resort that I would like bring my hardcore golfing friends to visit. Everything here is exceptional with the resort providing spacious rooms, comfy beds, good food and spectacular views.

(C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

Barnbougle Dunes is a real treat to play for any golfer and will leave you with a sweet golfing memory. Compared to the golf courses available on the more remote King Island, Barnbougle is accessible (given Tasmania is connected by better flight connections) and the hospitality and service at is much more refined.

The golf resort is one of the absolute best I’ve been to. I can also highly recommend playing Barnbougle Dunes; I had great fun and you can play it in many ways. Tomorrow, we will be playing and experiencing the other course at Barnbougle: Barnbougle Lost Farm, a Bill Coore/Ben Crenshaw course with 20 (!) holes.

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