GOLF CHRONICLES
Island Green CC 
 
 
Questions loom about the future of Island Green CC
Thursday, November 4, 2010
By Joe Logan

I’m getting a ton of emails about Island Green CC, or more specifically, the item in the Inquirer last Friday that reported that the course is closing.

 

Here’s what I know:

 

A week ago, a story in the business section of the Inquirer said that Teva Pharmaceuticals USA plans to build a new distribution facility in the Bustleton neighborhood, potentially employing 500 people.

 

The bad news for golfers is that the item said the new distribution center will go on the 136 acre site once occupied by the Budd Co. railcar division, which since 2001 has been the site of a popular daily fee course, Island Green CC.  Inquirer review. Bausch Collection photo gallery.

 

When I called Island Green CC general manager Scott Burek to get details about the closure, he told me that it was news to him.  He said he hadn’t talked to anybody from the Inquirer, nor had he heard anything from his bosses -- i.e. the owners -- that any sale was a done deal or that that the course was closing.  In fact, Burek said, he was still booking outings for next season.

 

When I pressed Burek for details or some kind of explanation of what is going on, he said he would have one of the owners get back to me.  That was three days ago.  Since then, Burek and I have been trading emails and phone messages about who will talk to me and when.

 

Truth is, I don’t know what is going on.  I don’t know if the Inquirer story is premature or flat out wrong. Clearly, some kind of discussions or negotiations are going on behind the scenes.  I do know that in Burek’s last email to me this afternoon, he said their position is that Island Green has not been sold.

 

Burek swears that the Island Green owners will fill me in as soon as possible.  When I find out, I will pass it along.


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Gil Hanse 
The growing career of Gil Hanse
Monday, November 1, 2010
By Joe Logan

Golf Digest is out with it’s 2010 list of Best New Courses and it’s another feather in the cap of Malvern-based architect Gil Hanse.

 

Castle Stuart Golf Links in Scotland, co-designed by managing partner Mark Parsinen and Hanse, was selected by the magazine as "Overseas Destination of the Year."

 

These awards are starting to be routine stuff for Hanse, who last year was named Architect of the Year by Golf Magazine, at the same time the magazine named Castle Stuart Best New International Course.

 

Closer to home, Hanse either designed or had a major hand in several local courses: Inniscrone GC, French Creek GC, Applebrook GC and Stonewall.

 

He has enjoyed even bigger success away from home, with Rustic Canyon GC in California, Craighead Links in Scotland, Boston TPC (home of the Deutsche Bank  Championship) and Boston Golf Club.  Here is his complete portfolio.

 

Working with right hand man Jim Wagner, Hanse seems to get better with each new project.  Meanwhile, on the business side, Hanse has kept his firm small; at a time when most big-name architects are laying off staff or shuttering their business altogether, Hanse is busy.

 

Along with Tom Doak and the design team of Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore, Hanse is the object of respect bordering on hero worship on the website GolfClubAtlas.com, frequented by architecture enthusiasts.  GCA Hanse interview.

 

The reason is that Hanse is seen as not only enormously talented but as a purist and minimalist when it comes to design.  Indeed, he is all three.  He also happens to be one of the nicest guys in golf.

 

Hanse seems to raise the bar with each new course.  Three weeks ago, I and several other course raters for Golfweek were invited to play Boston Golf Club, a Hanse and Wagner project that opened in 2005. 

 

I expected it to be good; it is after all ranked 36th on Golfweek’s list of Best Modern Courses.  But I had no idea.  I was blown away.  I’d put Boston Golf Club in my list of Top 10 courses I’ve ever played.

 

"This is what Gil can do when he gets a good piece of land," said another rater.

 

True, and with each new success, Hanse is going to get better and better property and projects.


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Bill W.[11/2/2010 12:05:00 PM]
Inniscrone is my favorite course in the area, although it has a couple of holes Iím not crazy about (10, 16)

Lee Westwood 
Lee Westwood No. 1?
Sunday, October 31, 2010
By Joe Logan

Don’t get me wrong, I have the utmost respect for Lee Westwood.  He has a beautiful, fluid golf swing.  He got to the top of golf a few years ago, fell to nothing, then climbed out of the career abyss against all odds.  Who knows, maybe his best golf is still ahead of him.

 

But for the life of me, I cannot understand how a golfer who has ever won a single major championship – hello, it’s the ultimate measure of champions – can rise to the position of No. 1 in the world, unseating Tiger Woods, who, tawdry scandal or not, has won 14 majors and more money than anybody in the history of the game.

 

This, of course, is not Westwood’s fault.  He is not in charge of the rankings and he is suitably humble.

 

But something ain’t right.  Is the World Golf Ranking golf’s equivalent of college football’s BCS?

 

I’m just saying...


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Todd[11/2/2010 12:06:10 PM]
I read somewhere that if rankings were done only on this yearís stats, Tiger would not be in the Top 50 in the world.
Steve[10/31/2010 5:56:15 PM]
If the OWGR were to switch to a one year system as many have suggested,then Kaymer has more points won in 2010 than Westwood.Take a look at this: http://dps.twiihosting.net/wgr/doc/content/archive/2010/owgr43f2010.pdf

Jack Connelly, GAPís Lifetime Achievement Award recipient 
Jack Connelly, Jim Finegan honored by GAP
Thursday, October 21, 2010
By Joe Logan

Congratulations to Huntingdon Valley CC head pro Jack Connelly and author James W. Finegan, two of the bright lights and true characters on the local golf scene, both of whom have been honored by the Golf Association of Philadelphia.

 

Finegan, 80,  best known for his 1997 tome A Centennial Tribute to Golf in Philadelphia, has been given GAP’s Distinguished Service Award.

 

Connelly, 63, head pro at Huntingdon Valley for 35 years and former president of the PGA of America, was selected as only the seventh recipient of GAP’s highest award, the Arnold Palmer Lifetime Achievement Award.

 

Both men took a bow before a packed room Wednesday night at GAP’s Annual Meeting at Meadowlands CC.

 

I first met Jim Finegan in the fall of 1996, not long after I began covering golf for the Philadelphia Inquirer, when we played in the same golf outing and ended up seated next to each other that night at the dinner.  I had heard of Jim, who had retired after a career in advertising, but I didn’t know much about him, other than he had turned his attention to writing about golf and golf history.

 

As I learned that night, Jim is one of the most amazing conversationalists you’ll ever meet.  He is full of tales and he enjoys nothing more than regaling an audience of one or a full banquet hall, with story after story, in his inimitable style.

 

It was that same night that Jim told me about a book he had spent the previous five years researching and writing -- the aforementioned history of the first 100 years of golf in Philadelphia.   Five years?  I get bored working on a story that takes more than a week.   I wondered how anybody could spend five years working on a book?

 

When A Centennial Tribute to Golf in Philadelphia was published the next year, it was a 500-page beast that I could barely lift.  The more I read and the deeper I dug into the book, the more I became amazed that Finegan was able to produce it in only five years.

 

Ever since then, A Centennial Tribute has remained perhaps the single most invaluable resource I’ve had writing about golf in Philadelphia.  It is never far from my reach and only rarely does it fail to include a chapter or a passage telling me exactly what I need to know.  On those few occasions when it doesn’t, I pick up the phone and call Jim, whereupon he proceeds to recall in detail precisely what I’m looking for.

 

While Jim regards A Centennial Tribute as his most important book, it is hardly his only one.  He wrote a history of Pine Valley  GC, where he is a longtime member, he wrote separate books on golf in Scotland and Ireland, where he has spent much time.  And then there is his most recent effort, a coffee table behemoth called Where Golf is Great: The Finest Courses of Scotland and Ireland.

 

If there is anything more fun than listening to Jim’s stories over lunch, it is playing  a round of golf with him.   He moves slower these days, thanks to chronic pain in his legs, but when he steps up to the ball it is not hard to appreciate that you are watching a four-time club champion at Philadelphia CC.

 

Jim’s got a quick, whippy swing, and he complains constantly that he can’t hit the ball out of his shadow any more, but he hits it dead straight again and again.  On the green, Jim’s "circle of friendship" is as large as his circle of friends in life, which is to say he will rake in a 4- or 5-footer rather than have to bend over to pick it up out of the cup.

 

Jim Finegan is a treasure.

 

As for Jack Connelly, all you need to know is that the man has survived 37 years at one country club – 35 as head pro.

 

For anybody who knows anything about the life of a club pro – they are subject to being fired on a whim -- it speaks volumes about Jack’s work ethic, his smarts, above all, his masterful skills as a politician.   What makes Jack’s longevity at Huntingdon Valley all the more impressive is that the man is, at heart, a full-fledged smart-aleck and wisenheimer.

 

Two stories, both of which he told Wednesday night:

 

In 1975, when Jack had been at Huntingdon Valley two years as an assistant, the club informed him that they were going make a change at the head pro job.  Would he be interested in applying?

 

Jack thought about it and said, "No, I don’t think I would."  After two years, he told the club, he had either proved himself or he hadn’t.  They gave him the job.

 

Not long into his tenure as head pro, Jack looked out on the golf course and spotted a fivesome making its way up the fairway.  Among Huntingdon Valley’s most rigid, unbreakable rules, championed by the club’s Golf Chairman, O. Gordon Brewer,  was "No Fivesomes,"

 

Immediately, Jack hopped in a golf cart and went off in pursuit of the offending fivesome.  When he pulled up to the group, who should among the fivesome but Golf Chairman O. Gordon Brewer himself.

 

Undeterred, Jack pulled out a pad and pencil, and said to Brewer and the others, "Can you gentlemen give me your names so I can report them to my Golf Chairman."

 

For the rest of that day and the next, Jack sat in his office waiting to be fired.  He never was.  To this day, Brewer, who was sitting front and center Wednesday night, remains one of his best friends.

 

Over the years, Jack got involved in the politics and administration of golf.  He started small, after he was unhappy with the way the Philadelphia PGA Section was running its tournaments and he began to complain.  To shut him, the Section put him on the tournament committee.  By 1983, Jack was the president of the Section.

 

That led to his interest in national office with the PGA of America, the 28,000-strong association of club pros.  Jack climbed through those ranks as well, culminating with a two-year term as president, beginning in 2000.

 

At the end of this year, Jack will retire as head pro at Huntingdon Valley, transitioning into a new role at the club described as "ambassador."  "Basically, I’ll be running the outings," he says, laughing, like he’ll be stealing money.

 

Jack can be blunt.  If you don’t want an honest answer, don’t ask him the question. But he is also a friendly, funny guy, a fact I had forgotten until Wednesday night, when he gave an acceptance speech that ran the gamut from tears to giggles.

 

Jim Finegan and Jack Connelly are both special people.  Congrats to both of them.


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Reid Hanley, 1945-2010 
Reid Hanley, R.I.P.
Friday, October 15, 2010
By Joe Logan

I got one of those calls yesterday that nobody wants to get – a friend had died.

 

Reid Hanley wasn’t just my friend, he was a friend to about a gazillion people and a friend to golf.  A versatile long time sports and golf writer for the Chicago Tribune, he retired a couple of years ago.  (Tribune obituary). Reid was not only passionate about the game, he was quite the stick himself, sporting a single-digit handicap.

 

How unfair that Reid, a non-smoker, was taken by lung cancer.

 

I got to know Reid from the tournament circuit.  He’d show up at the odd major, or any tournament anywhere near Chicago.  Reid wasn’t assigned to cover the Masters, but every year he and a Chicago pal would come down for a couple of days to attend the annual awards banquet for the Golf Writers Association of America and hang around Augusta National for a couple of days.  During those trips, he’d dive on a couch in the house I shared with three other writers for the week.

 

I don’t think I ever saw Reid frown.  He was one of those guys who was always smiling when he walked into a room.  By the time he left, everybody else was smiling, too.

 

Reid Hanley will be missed.


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Professor/Photographer Joe Bausch 
Introducing The Bausch Collection of photos
Thursday, September 30, 2010
By Joe Logan

I am delighted to report that we are adding a terrific new feature and invaluable resource to MyPhillyGolf The Bausch Collection.

 

That’s the name I half-jokingly suggested for what is a remarkable collection of photo galleries of golf courses in the region.   Haven’t played a course but want to get a sense of what it looks like?  Check out The Bausch Collection.

 

The first few galleries have already been uploaded to MyPhillyGolf.  To see them, on the home page, go to the upper right-hand corner of the menu bar and click on the drop-down under "Photos."

 

Toward the bottom, you’ll see the list of courses – private and public -- whose galleries are already in place: Aronimink GC, Bella Vista GC, Blue Bell CC, Broad Run GC, Cobbs Creek GC, Inniscrone GC, Island Green GC and The ACE Club.

 

Then click on the galleries themselves, and each individual photo for an expanded version.

 

What you see is only the beginning.  In the coming weeks, we will add photo galleries for another 50-60 courses in the region.   To my knowledge, it will be the most comprehensive assemblage of Philadelphia-area course photos anywhere.

 

The Bausch Collection is named for Joe Bausch, a Villanova chemistry professor with a passion for golf course architecture.  As he plays courses, Joe snaps photos along the way, from every conceivable angle.  From the quality of the images, I assumed Joe was working with some sophisticated single lens reflex camera with a top-dollar lens.  Not so.  He get these results with a small, high-end point-and-shoot camera.

 

MyPhillyGolf came by the photos because I happened to be playing a recent round of golf with Joe at the GC at Glen Mills (gallery coming soon) when he mentioned that the growing collection of galleries was beginning to tax the limits of his 10-year-old Mac and wondered if we’d like to host them.

 

I had to think about it for a full half-second before I said, "You bet we would."

 

The Bausch Collection has been a work in progress for quite some time, as Joe points and shoots his way through the regional golf landscape.  If you know of a course that deserves to join the collection, let me know and I will suggest it to Joe.

 

In the meantime, keep an eye out as we add more and more course galleries -- and tell all your golf friends about The Bausch Collection.


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Mark[10/20/2010 5:38:13 AM]
Congratulations on having your photo collections even more readily available! Great stuff Joe!
Dan Herrmann[10/20/2010 5:18:32 AM]
Joe Bausch is a really great photographer. Iíve spent days at my club taking pictures, but Joeís beats mine. Plus, he takes the photos while heís playing!
Fran[10/1/2010 4:27:04 PM]
Wow, I just noticed yesterday (9-29)that there was a golf course photo section. Since Iíve been considering playing Inniscrone and Glen Mills it was great to be able to get a tour of the courses. I had a chance to play Blue Bell CC but saw that each hole had homes on either side of the fairways and i do spray my tee shots sometimes so I passed on the opportunity. Looking at the photos I remember why. Thanks. A good feature for the site might be photos of different courses people have played.
redanman[10/1/2010 9:48:35 AM]
Joeís photographic sense and collection are first rate! Great addition, great "Name", too.
James[10/1/2010 5:05:16 AM]
Wow. I just checked out a couple of the galleries. Great stuff.
Kyle[10/1/2010 1:56:56 AM]
The further impressive thing about The Bausch Collection is that while he is snapping photos, he is still playing faster than most golfers. Great add.

9th green at Applecross CC 
Count the areaís new courses on one finger
Friday, September 17, 2010
By Joe Logan

There was a time not too many years ago when new golf courses were sprouting up all over the region, public and private.

 

I can recall writing round-up stories in the Philadelphia Inquirer about the half-dozen or so courses that would be in various stages of planning, construction or their first year of operation.

 

How many courses have opened in 2010?  One.

 

That course is Applecross CC in Downingtown, sister course to Talamore CC in Ambler, which the owners, the Talamore Group, are promoting as a 2-for-1 membership.

 

"If there is a better deal in town, I’d like to know what it is," said Jon Hazelwood, general manager of both clubs.

 

Given the laws of supply and demand, Applecross, which opened July 1, could be it the last new course in the area for a while.

 

Hazelwood goes even further, bluntly predicting, "Applecross will probably be the last new golf course built in the state of Pennsylvania.  There is no reason for there to be another one, unless the game of golf grows."

 

Good point.  Rather than grand openings, the talk in most grill rooms these days are rumors about what courses and clubs are barely hanging on or facing mergers or outright closure.

 

Why, then, did the Talamore Group, open Applecross?

 

Because he thought he could make a go of it even in the down golf economy.

 

"The courses complement one another – the courses and the distance between them," said Hazelwood.  "Applecross was a great product to add to the products we already had. But to think it’s not going to be a grind is very naive."

 

In 2005, when Applecross CC was first envisioned as the centerpiece of an upscale residential development by the Pulte Group, the Talamore Group wanted to develop the country club component.   It lost out to ClubCorp, at the time a big privately-held Dallas-based club management company.  In 2006, ClubCorp sold off everything except the Pinehurst Resort to private-held equity firm, KSL Capital Parnters. 

 

"Well, apparently Applecross wasn’t a good fit for KSL," said Hazelwood.  In 2009, the Talamore Group was back in the picture.

 

Any regrets, considering the downturn?

 

"No," said Hazelwood.  "Once we got involved, it was full steam ahead.  If you’re not going to go full steam ahead, then don’t get involved."

 

So far, said Hazelwood, the toughest part of marketing Applecross and Talamore is getting potential members to appreciate and understand the 2-for-1 membership – 4-for-1, if you include two more sister courses in Pinehurst, Talamore Resort and the Mid South Club.

 

"The concept of multi-club memberships is very new to this area," said Hazelwood.  "You have Philly Cricket with two courses, but I don’t know of anybody else who has two different facilities."

 

A Tier 1 full golf membership is a $12,500 refundable deposit with various incentive plans; annual dues are $2,995.  Like most clubs in the area, those numbers are down from years past ($4,200 in 2009, $5,200 in 2008).

 

So far, Applecross has about 115 full golf members and another 200 or so social members.  Talamore has 300 golf members.  The goal is for each to have 350 full golf members.

 

"We’re getting there," said Hazelwood.  "We’re continuing to grow, weathering the storm.  I can tell you that in the times we are in, it could be worse."


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James D.[9/20/2010 1:50:03 PM]
Acer3x, I havenít played LuLu but I can tell you that Applecross is better than Plymouth.
Phil[9/20/2010 6:19:04 AM]
I played Applecross. It was in very good condition. Nice layout, except for a couple of weird holes (10th and 14th).
Acer3x[9/18/2010 8:47:25 PM]
The courses are too far away from each other. Talamore should have bought LuLu or Plymouth.


 
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