Pine Valley

Few golfers have heard about the majestic nature of this great course in Clementon, NJ. Once I realized we might have a chance to play Pine Valley. I started telling people and most of the time their response was, “Pine Valley?, is that in NC?”.  Seriously,  as a golf nut I have started to realize that very few people care or have the passion about these architectural masterpieces that exist in America. My wife supports my passion but reminds me that I sound like an Ornitholigist when I talk about the ranking, history and architects. This made me realize that anyone who reads our blog probably wants to hear more about how we gained entrance, our actual day on the course, and maybe a little history sprinkled in with the commentary. Or they might just be looking for a few pictures.
PINE VALLEY – I am writing this a week or so after our round and I can still visualize everything. In my mind nothing on paper can do this course the justice it deserves. Granted Greg and I are just beginning our journey to conquer the top 100 and have a limited perspective to make full comparisons. We both agreed that this course was the most mentally challenging course we have ever played. This may change but I doubt it…..When we arrived at the course we knew we were in for a special day. The drive in is relatively secretive and non-assuming. We hit the guard gate and the gentlemen asked who our member sponsor was for the day.  After we got that out of the way we asked about some of the rules to make sure we were on our best behavior. He instructed us to go to the range and we knew that it was bad form to change your shoes in the parking lot and the gentlemen said,” you are a guest and it is all about fun here, feel free to change your shoes anywhere”. That was how everyone at PV and our host approached the day, which made for an amazingly special experience.
After warming up for about 45 minutes on one of the most amazing practice facilities(Fazio enhanced) we were slated to play the 10 hole short course before the great adventure. The short course was designed by Fazio and opened in 1991. The “Short Course” at PV is a great way to start the day as it provides some insight to some of the toughest approach shots and gives you a good feel for the relentless nature of your second shot. At Pine Valley they have a green mailbox at the first tee at both courses that contains pencils and scorecards.  The mailbox at the short course had a 5th of Vodka sitting in it and my guess was that it might be tradition to take a little warm up swig, but since our host did not comment I thought it might be poor form to make any suggestions. The short course was pretty awesome and helped Greg dial in his game as he would go on to beat me on the main course and shoot a 79. I hate loosing to Greg by the way!
We left the short course and ran over to the clubhouse to have a quick bite before the round. We followed the program and ate some Snapper soup and grabbed a cookie(or two) on the way out the door. The service during lunch was exceptional and the food was fantastic.
The round started by meeting our caddies. Nat and Bob. Nat was a true veteran and Bob looked like he might still be struggling through puberty. Nat was our caddie for the day and we soon discovered that he had previously spent 14 years of his life at little old course down in Augusta, GA. The first question that jumped out of my mouth, “which is better?”. Nat Struggled with this question but in the end he concluded that he enjoyed the Pine Valley experience a little more as it demanded more from the golfer on an approach shot basis. We have no opinion on his comment but we hope to someday. The battle had begun and our front nine was pretty tight. The highlight of the front was Greg hitting it to 4 inches on #3, which is a downhill Par 3 that was playing 170 yds……We finished the front 1/1. Greg 39, Ash 42.
The Back 9 was my demise. I started off well but 14 –16 is where the mental anguish set in and took me down. Greg was masterful with his emotions and made a mockery of me on the back and wound up beating me 3 ways and clinching the overall through this stretch of holes.   We had read this little bit of advice about the course somewhere previously. The #1 rule at Pine Valley,  “if you get in trouble, take your medicine and move on!”. Unfortunately,  this is more challenging than one might think.
I think a lot of people talk about the forced carries off the tee at Pine Valley but for us we found that getting into the green in regulation was an absolute grind. The bunkers on this course are treacherous and can put you in a mental spiral if you are not a great sand player. The fairways were immaculate and the greens were extremely fair considering they stimped out around 10 on this fine day.  My favorite holes were 4, 6, 10, 16, 17 and 18. Greg has been holding back on sharing this info so maybe on our second trip he will be more forthcoming!
Weather: 75 and Sunny:)
#1 tip to getting on Pine Valley – You gotta know someone!
Thanks to our wonderful host and Thomas for a wonderful day that neither Greg nor I will ever forget.
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