Bruno's Blog

Four Days in Pinehurst, North Carolina PDF Print E-mail
Written by BRUNO   


The stunning 3rd at the Dormie Club



After arriving back from the two week road trip that took us to South Carolina (Kiawah),

Philadelphia (Merion West), Westchester (Siwanoy), Boston (TPC Boston), back to Philly

(Merion East), Gladstone, N.J (Hamilton Farm), and then south to Palm Beach, it was back

to the road for four days in Pinehurst, North Carolina.

This particular journey was the brain child of my close friends Tony and John Zambos.Day

one was a travel day up the coast, about halfway in we decided to stop in Savannah, Ga.

for lunch.Good call by Johnny Z to detour east (for 30 miles or so), Vic's on the River was

amazing.The cuisine to die for(try the fried green tomatoes), and the scenery overlooking

the river was worth the extra ride.

The view from Vic's in Savannah


On the docket for this episode was an eclectic mix of North Carolina's finest: Forest Creek

South (a highly ranked private Fazio layout), Dormie Club (a new exclusive Crenshaw/Coore

design that is on a spectacular site), Pine Needles (famous Donald Ross design that has

hosted 3 Womens U.S Opens in recent years), and the world reknowned venue of the 2014

Mens & Womens U.S Opens: Pinehurst No.2 (recently restored to Ross' vintage style of native

sand scrub and pine straw bordering fairways by Crenshaw/Coore).

Donald Ross lives on everywhere at Pinehurst



Joining us during the first two rounds were Phil and Nick "legend" Zambos.Phil, brother to

Tony & John, played at Wake Forest during his college days on the same team as Curtis

Strange, Jay Haas, and Scott Hoch, he is known as a "stick" around his hometown at the

Greenbrier in West Virginia.Nick, Phil's son is a legend in West Virginia high school athletics

for his recent hoops talents.

Tony, John, Nick, J.B, and Phil


Arriving at Forest Creek on day two, I decided this would be my maiden voyage putting

cross handed, so besides experiencing Fazio's creation, rollin the rock would be a new

sensation as well.

Forest Creek is a pristine layout with all of the North Carolina stereotypical traits you'd expect,

tall pines, rolling terrain and bent grass putting surfaces.The first thing I realized about North

Carolina golf is the combination of Bermuda tees and Fairways and bent greens.That seemed

odd to me (agronomy is part of my everyday gig), with all of the new hybrid bermuda putting

surfaces that have little to no grain, and can handle extremely hot temperatures it would seem

a no brainer to me to make that switch . . . don't get me wrong, I'd rather putt on bent all day

over any bermuda, but bent just isn't hardy enough to handle the extremes (it was 104 degrees

the entire time we were in the Pinehurst area).I can see why people like Michael Jordan frequent

Forest Creek, it's a great private club.


The 429 yard ninth at Forest Creek South



Day three we headed over to the Dormie Club, a new highly acclaimed club designed by

Crenshaw/Coore.These two guys are superb with the their ability to shape the land and

have it appear that they never moved a yard of soil, the Dormie Club has many similiar

traits to what they created at Sugarloaf Mountain in Monteverde, Florida. As Matt Shaffer

at Merion calls it "edgy", a very unkempt style where the turf is anything but formal, sort

of the opposite of say Augusta or Winged Foot, but just as beautiful.Dormie Club seems to

be suffering from the economic climate that is affecting the entire country, with only 46

members at this ultra exclusive club, it will be hard for this club to survive in its present state

(very similiar to Sugarloaf Mountain).The target was 250-300 members, so if you're interested

in getting a round on this beauty(it's not public), it can be accomplished by pushing the right

buttons . . . now might be your only shot.

Playing with the Zambos clan is a great experience, and goin mano a mano with the stick of

the family (Phil) made the golf even more memorable.Our individual matches came down to

the last hole each day (too bad he left before Pine Needles, he would have needed to go low

that day to cash in).

The uphill approach to the 17th at the Dormie Club



I had arranged a review (after the round at Dormie Club) of the newly renovated Pinehurst

No.2, the weather was turning ugly just as we arrived (thunderstorms/lightning in the area),

so time was an issue.

Tony Z drove me around to each hole as I studied and snapped photos of each of the famous

18 on No.2.In a way it was better than playing the course, I was paying attention to all of the

details instead of attempting to hit golf shots and the emotions of trying to make a score.

I was surprised by how flat the property was (aside from a few holes).The legendary greens were

not at their usual firmness, and because of the opressive heat wave, they had to be kept very

shaggy and slow .

A few holes stood out to me, the fourth was a spectacular par five that just rolled downward

and right to left, the sixteenth and Seventeenth were very memorable as well.The green

complexes were some of the most creative and severe I'd ever seen, so that quality certainly

lived up to all that I had read and heard about.Crenshaw & Coore removed all of the rough and

restored No.2 back to its sandy origins of Donald Ross.The place just exudes history (it is an

American classic), and make no doubt the place should be seen by all . . . but as far as value goes,

I'm not going to put Pinehurst No.2 on that list.There is another Donald Ross classic just down the

road for less then half the price, and for my opinion it measures up quite favorably.



This statue right beside the 18th green at Pinehurst, pays homage to 1999 U.S Open Champion Payne Stewart



One of the legendary landmarks in Pinehurst is the Pine Crest Inn.The Pine Crest Inn

was at one time owned and operated by guess who, Donald Ross himself.This is the

hot spot to meet the who's who in Pinehurst golf.On any given evening, professionals

from any of the clubs in town can be found here enjoying a libation at Mr.B's Lounge

or an incredible dinner.Be sure to order the Pine Crest signature 22oz center cut pork

chop . . . I can attest, it's amazing.

Another staple of Pinehurst, the Pine Crest Inn



Day Four was on the OTHER Ross classic, Pine Needles Golf Club & Lodge.Pine Needles

to me is similiar to Hamilton Farm, in the sense that it is sooo underrated as a golf course.

It has received it's share of praise, and has hosted 3 Womens U.S Opens in recent years,

but Pinehurst No.2 gets all of the fan fare.I've played and and walked quite a few Ross

courses, this one is right up there with Siwanoy and Seminole at the top of my list.The

property at Pine Needles rolls and cambers, when you combine that with Ross greens, and

outstanding conditions, you have sheer brilliance (not to mention beauty).

The par 3 sixteenth at Pine Needles

Later that Sunday afternoon, I boarded a flight back to Palm Beach, as the Zambos

clan headed to the Greenbrier for festivities at the PGA Tour event being held that

week at the Old White course.


Course reviews of the four Pinehurst courses coming soon in the Course Review

/Travel section.


My next stop was the Dick Wilson classic: Pine Tree in Boynton Beach, Florida.

Thanks to Jim Musick for being the point man for everything Pinehurst, and to the

Zambos Clan for their hospitality and friendship.



LinksNation East Coast Summer Tour 2011 PDF Print E-mail
Written by BRUNO   


 Dusk at Pete Dye's Kiawah Island Ocean Course - site of the 2012 PGA Championship                           J Bruno photo



On July 1st LinksNation hit the road, embarking on a tour of some the

best courses and clubs up the east coast (actually we started on June 29th close

to home base at The Dye Preserve Golf Club in Jupiter). We will detail each club

and layout later in our Course Review/Travel section.


A group of four started out on a journey towards Kiawah Island, South Carolina . . . 

yours truly, Scott Baker, Peter Cunnion, and former Augusta National looper Erik

Shullstrom. Our usual rendezvous point, the Burger King at Florida Turnpike exit 109 

(a pitch and putt away from PGA of America Headquarters) was once again the scene

of the pre-dawn send off.

After a trek of some 500 miles or so, we arrived at our destination, Kiawah Island

Resort.We were set up at the resort villa with a partial ocean view, just a few dozen

yards from the beach itself.If there is a better setting for a resort in the eastern U.S,

I'll gladly accept the invite to such a destination. Pebble Beach Resort, The American

Club in Kohler, Wisconsin & Kiawah Island are the Gold standard when it comes to golf

resort destinations in the United States.

The Kiawah Resort is a perfect place to bring the family, or for a group to get away 

for a hard core golf experience.


The beach and villas at Kiawah Island Resort



One evening while trolling outside the confines of the resort looking for a bite to eat,

(restaurants outside the resort are not plentiful), we found one such place deserving

of mention: Chez Fish on Kerrison Parkway in John's Island, South Carolina.



The cuisine was low country seafood specialties, so of course I went with the chicken.

Kudos to Baker for pickin up the tab that night . . . as he reached for the check and

uttered "this one's on me boys", Erik launched a verbal "Atta Boy" that had us in stitches.

If you decide to buy & cook your own food at the resort villa (for budget conscious groups 

this is an option). . . the Piggly Wiggly just outside the resort has what you need, and as

their slogan goes: "I'm big on the pig", otherwise I would go with the resort cuisine choices. 


Mike, Pete, J.B, Baker, Big E, and Hugh - Kiawah 1st Tee


We had a 10:50 tee time the next day (July 2nd) on the Ocean Course (home of the

1991 Ryder Cup and  2012 PGA Championship), but couldn't resist an early peak. We

spent the evening hours chipping and putting on the practice green that sits just beside

the 18th green, clubhouse and shoreline . . . not many better surroundings to experience

the expiring daylight. It was so intoxicating, we repeated this ritual the next evening

after our round.


The Ocean Course lived up to it's billing, and is an instant top ten in my rankings.

The Resort is an absolute must for anyone who enjoys visiting beautiful destinations,

look for the detailed review of the Ocean Course, coming soon in the Course Review



July 3rd it was back to the road again, headed due north towards Philadelphia and

the famed Merion Golf Club, site of Bobby Jones' Grand Slam in 1930 and Hogan's

improbable U.S Open victory in 1950.


We (the group scaled down to Peter & I) arrived in the "city of brotherly love"

at around 9pm, staying in perhaps the exact opposite accomodations of our

base camp at Kiawah.To be kind, lets just say The King of Prussia Motel 6 is not

recommended by this website.




Driving into Merion for me is just like driving into Winged Foot, Seminole, Pebble,

Calusa Pines, Whistling Straits, Atlanta Athletic Club, Bethpage, Quaker Ridge, Erin

Hills, Kiawah, and now Hamilton Farm . . . the giddy nervousness that accompanies

the drive into such places is an adrenaline boost, akin to the feeling of kissing a girl

for the first time . . . just nothing like it. 

Walking around the clubhouse and lockeroom at Merion was like being in a surreal place,

knowing that legends had historical victories here just adds to the atmosphere at Merion.

Unfortunately, our scheduled plans to play the East Course were not tidy, so after doing

an interview with Director of Course Operations Matt Shaffer, he took me on an

extensive tour of the East Course and described in detail what modifications have and

will be made prior to the 2013 U.S Open, as well as spots on the property where historical

events took place.I was honored that Mr.shaffer thought highly enough of these writings

to give me the amount of time that he did. I found his candid views about many things

in golf refreshing, and quickly came to the opinion that he is one of the most interesting

and knowledgable people I've encountered in this game.Thanks to Matt, Pete and I 

were set up to play the West course just down the street in Ardmore. (I would return 7

days later to take on the fabled Hugh Wilson designed U.S Open East Course).


The West Course is also a Hugh Wilson design, and was quite unique in its own right.

Since the camera was not permitted on the courses at Merion, I will use previous

published photos of the courses when describing each in the Course Review Section.


After playing the West, and scoffing down a great cheeseburger that Markos had just

pulled off the grill, we raced to Newark to get Pete to his 5:30 flight back to Palm Beach.

Afterall, it was July 4th and I had a family barbecue to get to in New York. Later that evening

I went to a minor league baseball game (with my nephew Kevin), the Staten Island Yankees

(home team) vs The Brooklyn Cyclones . . . for the record the Cyclones dominated 9-2.


After a few days in the Apple, the next destination was Siwanoy CC in Westchester County.

Siwanoy was the site of the very first PGA Championship in 1916, and was also the site

of the 1920 exhibition matches with Harry Vardon and his partner Ted Ray.


This classic Donald Ross layout hosted the 1st PGA Championship in 1916                           Bruno photo


Thanks to Grant Turner and Mike Mulhearn (a.k.a "Spike") for hosting us. Spike was the perfect

tour guide and obviously takes much pride in his club, and with good reason . . . the place was

just a pure Donald Ross gem. Thanks also to Steve Cunnion for driving down from the Hudson

Valley to join me for the round.Stevie saw my best ball striking of the entire trip, a solid 71

that felt like it shoulda been better if I had rolled the rock a little better.


Spike(left) hosted Steve Cunnion (right) and I at Siwanoy



Later that evening I headed north to Boston.Staying at the Cutter's gorgeous palatial estate

in Hopkinton, was a treat. My better half flew in to have a few days of R&R of her own, and on

the 8th I headed for TPC Boston. Thanks to Brad Williams for having us, and to longtime friend

and golf professional Bobby Brown and his buddy Shaun Noonan (yep that's his real

name) for joining me for the round. Mother nature did not cooperate, but having Ed

Rollo as forecaddie certainly helped us enjoy the day and finish the round.Gil Hanse and

Brad Faxon did a nice job of reworking this layout, home of the PGA Tour's Deutsche Bank.

By the way Brownie, you're 3 down in the match when you return to Florida.


Leo the starter at TPC Boston, gave Brownie and I the rundown on the Gil Hanse/Brad Faxon Layout


Caddie Ed Rollo, and Noonan post round at TPC Boston



After 4 days and some site seeing at and around Boston proper, I headed back to Merion . . .

a six hour trek mind you, but it's Merion! I enjoyed seeing Matt Shaffer again, he did a nice

job pairing me up to play with Dave Petfield, Greg Bellen, and George (who is a superintendent

at a nearby club called Raven's Claw).The East Course is a design marvel, a true classic,

I'm just quite simply in love with Merion.It was a struggle to feel comfortable early in the

round because of a lack of yardage markers and the non allowed use of rangefinders (seriously

old school).I know no one is crying a river for me because I had to play Merion without

my rangefinder, I'm not sure how Hogan and the boys played purely by site in the old days.

As Matt Shaffer would say, "Americans are over indulged". . . I'm guilty as charged.

A great sunny day to walk Merion, and the 95 degree temps made me thankful

that I loaded up on the spf 70.



 The entry to Hamilton Farm was my first clue that the day would be special


My last stop was on July 12th at Hamilton Farm Golf Club, in Gladstone, New Jersey. 

If there is ever a day to just go through the motions, it would be on the final leg of a

two week journey, but this experience was anything but that. As I reached the entry,

the black wrought iron gates, Hamilton Farm sign and a speaker box were all that were

there.I was greeted through the speaker: "Mr.Bruno welcome, we've been expecting you".

After a one mile drive through a winding road and gorgeous foliage, I finally made my

way to the clubhouse. 

From the moment I arrived at Hamilton Farm, I was treated as a member and if this is

how members are treated . . . sign me up. A personal thanks to all of these people:

Teaching Professional Gia Bocra Liwski for passing along our request months ago to

Membership Director Erin Walsh. Erin who set up the day, took me on a tour of the club

and really took the time to make sure I had what I needed to experience Hamilton Farm

in all it's glory.

Paul in the locker room, for giving me the VIP treatment and Matt Lauer's locker for the

day, as well as convincing me that I had to play the par3 "Hickory Course" . . . You were

right Paul, it was beyond words. 



The measure of a great golf club beyond the clubhouse and the property it sits on, is the

people involved with running the day to golf operations.Director of Golf Matt Freitag and

his staff are as good as it gets (not to mention that Matt hits the sweetest soft high draw

I've ever seen . . . and holds the course record on both the Highlands & Hickory -

64 & 48 respectively), Head Pro Vince Pulizzano was my guide around the Par 3 Hickory

Course, and Assistant Professional Nicholas Ingram steered me around the

Championship Highlands layout with the best caddy I've ever encountered in Dave August.

I could play golf with this group everyday, it's just a special group of people.

Kudos to Superintendent Patrick Husby, Paul Ramina and the grounds staff for their

magnificent work, both layouts were in pristine shape.  


The 18th at Hamilton Farm


The Hurdzan/Fry designed 36 hole routing is perhaps the most underrated in the U.S . . .

it was flat out as quality a design as any I've played in recent memory. In a few weeks we

will feature Hamilton Farm in our course review section, and the photo's will blow you away. 


After two weeks and 126 holes, it was back to Palm Beach . . . Thanks to all that were part

of the journey, looking forward to seeing you all again down the road and looking forward

to the next destination (which is North Carolina).


By the time all was said and done, 3796 miles were logged. 


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