The Local Knowlege

Courses & Travel

Golf needs to dump Trump's courses; play here instead

Not that anybody asked me, but since Donald Trump has officially and repeatedly poisoned his relationship with golf and, well, humanity with his recent comments about Mexicans and Mexican-Americans, I thought it might be fun to provide some guidance on where golf’s organizations should take their Trump-affiliated events once they sever ties with the second-leading candidate for the Republican Presidential nomination. He doesn’t sound like he’s taking any of it back, so it’s time golf took back his golf tournaments. 

First up is the tour’s long-standing event at Trump Doral, the WGC-Cadillac Championship. (It's probably too late to move the Ricoh Women's British Open from Trump Turnberry Resort, but boy, it would be a hoot to shift this event to Royal Dornoch, no?) Now the Gil Hanse-refortified Blue Monster is an epic test, but until it’s no longer a Trump course, we have to look elsewhere. I would have chosen Crandon Golf at Key Biscayne. The well-regarded, tight and tough muni has been host to Champions Tour events back in the day, but now it seems Trump’s golf group is on the verge of signing a management contract there. So it, too, is out. How about The Bear’s Club in Jupiter, a home game for a bunch of tour players already? Better yet, why not Streamsong, a resort more real golfers want to play than all the Trump properties combined? Besides, it’s right on the way as the tour works its way from South Florida back up to Tampa and then Orlando.


Next: The Puerto Rico Open at Trump International. Never mind that the darn near insolvent commonwealth of Puerto Rico is currently North America’s version of Greece, there is more than one lavish golf resort on America’s pseudo-51st state. My choice: Royal Isabela. Lavish yes, but unlike the boorish, bulldozing golf course design preferences of Trump, nary a tree was removed in the design of this picture postcard layout spread over canyons and coastline.

Royal Isabela

PGA Grand Slam of Golf: Set to be played at Trump National Los Angeles, the first thing I’d do if I were Jordan Spieth is come out and say I’m not playing in the event if it’s being held at a Trump-owned course. This event has almost never been interesting including the time Mike Ditka filled one of the four slots. Why not take it to a revered venue that the world never sees? I nominate the North Course at Los Angeles Country Club, a layout already tabbed to host the 2023 U.S. Open so why not give it a test drive with the best four players in the game? But if we really want to do the right thing, take it to Rancho Park or the Wilson Course at Griffith Park, as detailed here by David Owen. Golf is really a much more diverse game than mainstream media would have you believe, and there’s no better showcase than an L.A. muni golf course

Rancho Park

2017 U.S. Women’s Open, 2022 PGA Championship: Two legitimate major championships are already set for Trump National Bedminster. I say we divide them up. For the PGA, you can have your New Jersey major event standbys, your Baltusrols, your Plainfields, your Ridgewoods. It’s time the PGA thought outside the box. It’s always got the strongest field of the 
url.jpgfour majors with nearly every player in the Top 100 in the world in the championship. Why not take it to a venue outside the U.S.? How about Hirono in Japan, Cape Kidnappers in New Zealand or Barnbougle Dunes in Australia? Or better: Given Gary Player’s comments about the unworthiness of Chambers Bay as a major venue and Robert Trent Jones Jr.’s retort that Player’s never had a course of his own host a major, how about the PGA go to Player’s very own version of Chambers Bay, the Links at Fancourt in South Africa, site of the epic tie at the 2003 Presidents Cup? It would be fun just to see how Player would handle the backlash. 

And if golf’s organizing bodies really wanted to shake things up, I’d move the U.S. Women’s Open to Pine Valley, which as we all know doesn’t permit women to join and only allows them to play on Sunday afternoons. Hello? It’s 2017, not 1947. Time Pine Valley showed the world, men and women, how cool it really is.

So for the above reasons, let’s hope the Donald doesn’t recant and golf’s ruling bodies move the game in a more exciting direction.
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You might not think of West Virginia as a playground of the rich, but it is

When compiling a list of popular neighborhoods for athletes, certain destinations jump to mind: Manhattan Beach, Calif., outside of L.A., Westlake, Texas near Dallas; Jupiter, Fla.

One that may surprise you: White Sulphur Springs, W. Va., host of this week’s Greenbrier Classic.


Since billionaire Jim Justice bought the Greenbrier in 2009, the resort has seen an uptick in its high-living community extension, the Greenbrier Sporting Club. Offering all the amenities that come with the celebrity lifestyle while providing a respite in the form of a tranquil setting, it’s easy to see why athletes are quickly making this a sought-after spot.

Not that the presence of star personalities is a new concept to the Greenbrier. Sam Snead got his start as a club professional at the hotel’s golf course and maintained ties to the area for the rest of his life.

Here are some of the big names that call White Sulphur Springs home:

John Smoltz 

The newly minted Baseball Hall of Famer grew up near Lansing, Mich., and played 20 seasons for the Atlanta Braves, but now calls West Virginia his home. In a related note, Smoltz is quite the accomplished golfer himself, carrying a plus-2 handicap. Tiger Woods has even called Smoltz the best non-tour member he’s played with. (Although Smoltz’s professional golf attempts have not been fortuitous.)

Jerry West 

Known as “The Logo,” as his silhouette dons the NBA’s emblem, West is the Mountain State’s favorite son. After a record-setting career at West Virginia University in Morgantown, West went on to win an Olympic gold medal and, as a player or executive, played a role in eight NBA championships.


Like Smoltz, West has an active voice in the game of golf. A fine player himself, West was also the director of the PGA Tour's Northern Trust Open. 

The Greenbrier’s steakhouse, 44 Prime, is named in West’s honor.

Bubba Watson

Also someone who’s not bad at golf, Watson and his family purchased a place in the Greenbrier residence in 2014. Watson’s digs are next to:

Denny Hamlin


The 34-year-old driver has 25 wins on the NASCAR Sprint circuit and once caddied for Watson at the Masters’ Par-3 Tournament. Constantly navigating his way through 200-mph traffic will make dealing with Bubba’s hovercraft a breeze.

New Orleans Saints 

That’s right. Justice grew up a fan of Archie Manning’s Saints, so when the club was looking for a new training camp away from the sweltering Louisiana summer, Justice built a facility for the team.


The $30 million complex came out of Justice’s own pocket and was constructed in a mere 100 days. The practice grounds were beloved by the players and coaching staff, and the Saints are returning for their second season this July.

Additionally, the West Virginia and Marshall college teams use the site on occasion.

Nick Faldo

Sir Nick has become the de facto face of the Greenbrier’s golf operations, appearing in promos for the community. The CBS commentator and six-time major winner teamed with the resort to create the Faldo Golf Center, a state-of-the-art instruction and education complex.

Pete Sampras 

Sampras holds the title of Tennis Pro Emeritus at the Greenbrier. He also sports a .5 handicap index, although judging by his loopy, stooped swing, you'll forgive us if we're skeptical. 

That, or the man gets it up and down like nobody’s business. 

Lee Trevino/Tom Watson 

Following the passing of Snead, who held an honorary “club pro” distinction from 1993 to 2002, Watson had the title for more than a decade. After the resort and Watson parted ways, Trevino is now the figurehead at Greenbrier, and is joining forces with Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player to design a new course near the hotel.


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Courses & Travel

Here's Tiger Woods previewing his first U.S. course design (which definitely has some Augusta in it)

Tiger Woods’ track record as a golfer is unquestioned. Whether the 14-time major winner's course-design skills match up is something we're waiting to see.

Woods has already opened courses in Mexico, and has lined up course endeavors in Dubai and China. Yet Bluejack National, just outside of Houston in Montgomery, Texas, will be his first course to debut in the United States.

“When it’s all said and done, the course is going to be more open,” says Woods in the preview video. “But more than anything, it’s very playable.”

Woods goes on to cite similarities to Augusta National’s sweeping grounds, and it’s evident in the video that the Masters’ playground was a primary influence on Bluejack (And the way Woods has been spraying his driver as of late, this unfenced terrain may be his sanctuary.)

At a cost of over $100 million, Bluejack is set to open in the fall. From the clip, Bluejack does strike as an aesthetically-pleasing venue. Take a look for yourself:


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Courses & Travel

Recalling the bunker at the Greenbrier that was designed to protect more than par

This week, the Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, W. Va., is hosting golf’s best. Sixty years ago, the resort was configured to accommodate a different crowd: Congress, in the event of a nuclear attack.


For underneath the fairways and greens lies a massive underground bunker, one that was hidden to the world for more than three decades.

Viewed as a recreation destination as early as 1778, the White Sulphur Springs community built a hotel on the Appalachian grounds in 1858, with golf links added in 1913. Aside from a vacation terminus for the East Coast elite, the site also served as a military hospital during the Civil War and World War II.

It was this civic service that laid the groundwork for the resort’s classified mission.

With the Cold War reaching a fever pitch, the United States government contacted The Greenbrier in the late 1950s with an idea. If a foreign military strike reached American soil -- specifically, a nuclear holocaust -- the country needed a relocation spot to house leaders and officials, in order to stabilize and continue the flow of government.


Codenamed “Project Greek Island,” the resort hammered out an underground workstation in 1959. To cover up the clandestine operations, The Greenbrier added an additional wing to the hotel, and hid some of the construction elements by filling in a new 9-hole golf course on the estate.

The shelter could house up to 1,000 people. Some of the bunker’s features included two auditoriums (one for Senate sessions, the other for the House of Representatives), a medical facility, kitchens, living quarters and a media/broadcast room. For safety and protection purposes, the cellar was reinforced with concrete walls. 




Part of the bunker was readily available to the public during its operation. Mainly, the Exhibition Hall, which was used for by the hotel’s clientele for meetings and gatherings. This was done in order to conceal the entire confines of the hidden fortress.

To manage the property, a fake business called “Forsythe Associates” was implemented, maintaining that the company’s purpose was to run the TVs and electronics of the hotel. 

However, even during the dramatic moments of the Cold War, the fortification was never used. (As far as we know.)

In 1992, The Washington Post exposed The Greenbrier’s secret. Immediately after the word was out, the bunker was derestricted

The subterranean structure is now open to the public for guided tours, giving a glimpse into the all-too-real dangers of a time not long ago.


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Courses & Travel

Three architects explain how to make a course like Chambers Bay playable for you, while still challenging the pros

It's not an accident that majors are rarely played on public courses: The pros are way better at golf than you and I are. We shouldn't be playing on the same courses, because they'd tear the local muny apart. It wouldn't even be fun to watch.
But the USGA thinks that Chambers Bay can handle the pros. It's exciting, but it made me ask the question: How? How can a course be kind to recreational players while still challenging the pros?
To find the answer, I spoke with our architecture editor, Ron Whitten. We chatted about how we all want visually exciting courses, but usually with exciting visuals comes difficulty. How is that balance achieved where a course is fun to look at yet still playable? And when you have a playable golf course, how do you make sure it's still challenging?

Related: 11 people with the most at stake at Chambers Bay

We needed to get some professional opinions to answer these questions. To give the architects a focal point to start the conversation, I gave them a hole at Chambers Bay to think about.
The 8th hole at Chambers Bay is the No. 1 handicap hole on the course. When you look at it, it's a decent-length par 5, but it's straight and has no bunkers. It defends itself by being so narrow, sloped and by having changes in elevation.

I asked a selection of leading architects to look at this piece of land as a canvass, and to answer the question,"'If you were to design a par 5 on this plot of land, and had to design it so average players had a chance and pro players would still be challenged, what would that par 5 look like?"
This is not to say that the 8th hole in its current design won't be able to achieve this. The goal of this is not to critique the existing course design; The 8th hole is being used as a starting point to focus the bigger conversation of golf course playability.  
The architects came up with some pretty cool designs. Each of their designs is accompanied by their explanation of how to make a course playable for a huge range of ability.
Check out their designs and the reasons behind each decision below.
Dr. Michael J Hurdzan of Hurdzan Design says that he would first focus on tee position. "The more perpendicular to a slope that a golf ball lands, the less effect the slope will have on the ball's eventual fate via roll. Since the slope on this hole is left to right, the championship tee will be placed furthest left, enhancing the effect of the slope on the golf ball (read: making the hole much harder). But on the second and third shots, with widened landing areas, it would increasingly be up to the competitor just how much or how little they utilize the slope."

As for the higher handicappers, Hurdzan would install "a series of right side tees to give them the best chance of hitting (and holding) the fairway."
Around the green, Hurdzan would make a large chipping area on the right side. This would cause approach shots that land there to run out. "But to add more suspense, I would install a series of pronounced grassy hollows in this area to reduce the fear of the right side miss and encourage aggressive play by slowing down these running shots and shortening the return pitch."
Overall, Hurdzan's design is to create room necessary for someone to pick an aggressive line, while still having the option to bail out with a little penalty.


(Hurdzan's sketch)

Ty Butler of Brio Golf looks at distance. "A hole playing 420 yards from the back tee should require a player with a swing speed of 100 mph to hit a driver and an eight iron for the approach. In order to provide a similar experience and shot value for a player with a swing speed of 75 mph the distance should be roughly 250 yards."
Butler would make a par 5 like this as long as possible from the tips. If he could get those tees to 570 yards, he's put tee boxes at 550, 520, 485, 440, and 340 for higher-handicap players. "With these varied distances all players have the chance to reach the putting surface with two well struck shots."

Related: Ron Whitten's Golf Digest Chambers Bay preview

To make players think a little more, Butler said he'd add bunkers on the left. "Players A-D must negotiate the first carry bunker and players E & F must content with the second bunker further along the left side."
He also added greenside bunkers. "All players choosing not to challenge the bunkers off the tee and favor the right side will have to contend with these newly added greenside hazards on their approach."
To help approach shots funnel toward the green, Butler sloped the front left side of the green.


(Butler's sketch)

Beau Welling of Beau Welling Design looked at the fairway, and inserted bunkers where elite players would likely be trying to put their drives. "We placed a left fairway bunker roughly 300 yards off the tee, as well as a small left-to-right green, protected by a bunker on the right, to create a premium for approaching from the left." 
The greenside bunker protects right side pins, while left side pins are protected by "roll off the green into a swale between the green surface and the large dune, making recovery shots more demanding."
"For higher handicappers, the real danger is losing the ball over the steep slope all along the right side of the hole. To counteract measures that protect par for advanced players, we would suggest features to encourage higher handicappers to play more to the left so that they can utilize the containing slope to redirect their balls back towards the center of the hole."

To do that, Welling said he'd, "add a short bunker on the right side of the first landing area to 'steer' their shots to the left off the tee" and by widening the fairway where possible for an easier second shot. For the approach, "the right greenside bunker will already direct higher handicappers to the left, but the smaller green will also allow more containing play space around the green to help with errant shots."

(Welling's sketch)

With these designs, each designer hopes to achieve the same goal Chambers Bay will achieve this week:  Make a visually interesting hole that requires strategy from elite players, while still being playable for the rest of us.


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Courses & Travel

The latest sinkhole golf course nightmare: Two workers fall 14 feet at Georgia Tech golf facility

Another sinkhole on a golf course? Another sinkhole. These terrifying monstrosities have struck at a golf facility again -- this time near the campus of Georgia Tech.


Just a couple weeks after a giant sinkhole popped up at Top of the World Golf Course in Bramson, Mo., two workers at the practice facility at Georgia Tech's range fell 14 feet when a sinkhole opened Thursday evening. They were both knocked unconscious but were rescued successfully by firefighters going down into the sinkhole, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.

Related: Huge sinkhole develops at site of Champions Tour event

It's worse enough we have to worry about hitting our golf ball straight. Now that these sinkholes are becoming more and more common on a golf course, we have to worry about these sinkholes, too? C'mon Mother Nature. This isn't funny anymore.

Photo courtesy: WXIA-TV. h/t


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Courses & Travel

How to get on the good side of a public course starter

Being a starter for two summers at Putnam County Golf Course in Mahopac, N.Y., was an exciting job. I’m sure we can all agree that getting paid to spend your time at the place you usually pay to play is a welcome change. Yet as much as I enjoyed it, there were always some golfers who made my job harder. So I’m here to give you tips on how to get on the good side of your starter. Follow these and maybe he will let you go out for an extra few holes.
1. Arrive prior to your tee time
If you make a tee time for, let’s say, 12:05 p.m., it means that you are on the tee at 12:05 p.m. Too often, I’ve had foursomes arrive at 12:05 and tell me that they are right on time. Once they get to the tee after, you know, paying, setting up on a cart, and buying beers for the round, it is about 12:10. Then I have to explain to the next foursome that we are now backed up because the previous group showed up late, even though they thought they were on time.
2.  Don’t ask to go off the back nine on a crowded day
If you ask me how the course is moving today, and I reply with something like “The tee sheet is packed and just about every hole is being used,” this does not mean that the tenth hole has miraculously opened up just for you. Golfers will often try to tip me a few dollars to go off on 10 quick before the foursome currently on 9 finishes up. After a few unsuccessful gos at this, I’ve learned that it is not worth the grief that you will receive from that group on 9. Just play from the first tee like everyone else, and don’t badger your starter with such requests.
Note: This is NOT the author.

3. Don’t stop for lunch after the front 9
Keep in mind that on a crowded Saturday or Sunday, there are groups making the turn every eight or nine minutes. If I see a group make the turn and disappear into the clubhouse for ten minutes, it is safe to assume that they are enjoying lunch mid-round. The only problem with this is that by the time they are ready to play the back 9, there will be a group competing with them to play on hole 10. After it takes those two groups an additional 10 or 15 minutes to get through the hole, everyone on the front 9 -- and those waiting to tee off -- are now backed up. For the sake of your starter and those playing behind you, get as much grub in you as possible before your round, or just tell your feedbag to wait it out.

4.  You may not always play as just a twosome
On a dismal, deserted weekday, I would send singles and twosomes out all the time because there are massive gaps between groups on the course. But on the weekends, this is never the case. I’ll never forget the Saturday morning that I was strapping a young couple’s golf bags onto a cart when I asked them what their tee time was. When I informed the gentleman that they would be playing with another couple, he proceeded to take my hands from the cart, unstrap their clubs, walk away, and pull out in their car. Yep, it happened just like that. And then I had to send out just a twosome who complained about how slow the play was. Well, when you’re a twosome with foursomes all around you, that will happen. Keep this in mind next time you play on the weekend at a public course, and maybe you will make a couple of new friends.
5. No individual carts allowed in a foursome
This doesn’t deserve much explanation. There are two seats in every golf cart for a reason. I’ve been asked constantly for golfers to have their own individual carts, and it becomes frustrating. Even though I understand why you would want your own cart, realize that we only have so many. Even if you are an individual and forced to sit with a stranger in a foursome, try to make a friend.
6. Drive the cart only where you are supposed to
Though the drainage systems at PCGC have greatly improved since the day I got there, the first summer was really tough. After a decent rainstorm, puddles and muddy areas were rampant, and the course would remain cart path only for quite a few days. However, regardless of how many signs the club puts out or how many times you tell golfers, someone will always ruin the fun and get a cart stuck in the mud. I’ve had tee times pushed back up to half an hour because of such a situation. So, for your starter, just take the few extra steps to your ball when it’s a little wet on the ground.
7. Don’t look at the tee sheet
I’m not sure how tee sheets work at other public courses, but at PCGC, it’s really basic. We have a clipboard with printed pages of the times and names of the people playing. For our more frequent golfers, they know where this clipboard is in our outdoor cabana, and will glance over it while I’m strapping bags onto golf carts. The question I always have when I see someone doing this is, “Is it going to make you get out there any sooner?” Maybe it’s just a pet peeve of mine, but I take offense when golfers do this. It’s as if they don’t believe the tee time that I told them, or that the course is actually packed today. There’s no reason for your starter to be lying to you -- especially if they want a nice tip.

8. Don’t take extra shots off the first tee
Believe me when I say that I wish I could take extra shots off the first tee just like everyone else does. However, on a crowded Saturday or Sunday, taking that second or third tee shot is slowly backing up the rest of the tee times. Plus, aside from the 10th hole, it’s the only hole I can see you teeing off from. If you want to take extra shots, do it from any of the other holes where I can’t blatantly blame you for backing up the course.
9. Don’t let Groupon tell you that a Sunday at 10 a.m. is a good time to try golf for the first time
I know this sounds insane, but just bear with me. Last summer, on one of the warmer and clearer Sundays of the season, the course was booming with golfers. Enter four individuals who present me with a Groupon for their 10 a.m. tee time. The only thing is that none of them had clubs. After returning from the clubhouse with four rental sets, the foursome gets in their carts and drive down to the first tee. I watch as the first gentleman takes five baseball-like hacks at the ball, none of which make contact. As I’m going down to the tee to ask if there is any problem, they tell me that none of them have ever played golf before, but thought this Groupon deal would be a good way to start. Sigh. After they played the first hole for about a half hour, the tour pro proceeded to remove them from the course and offer them lessons in exchange for their round.  They got free lessons, but I got a tee sheet backed up a half hour.

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Courses & Travel

An edible golf course? Yes, there is such a thing

Forget about grabbing a bag of potato chips or a hot dog at the turn, this golf course in the West Indies encourages golfers to pick a variety of fresh fruits -- mangoes, papayas, bananas -- while they play.

Irie Fields, located at Kittitian Hill on St. Kitts Island, is a unique, par 71, 18-hole course, designed by the legendary Welsh tour player Ian Woosnam. It is perhaps the world's most edible, 'pick-as-you-play' golf course, with over 70 acres of tropical fruit orchards and farmland. Irie Fields is not only the world's "first edible golf course," but is also in the final stages of becoming the the first course to acquire certification in the Golf Environment Organization's Golf Developments Program, which showcases the world's most sustainable golf projects. It's maintained without the use of chemical pesticides or fertilizers and uses a water-conserving irrigation system.

Related: The Most Earth-Friendly Golf Courses

Signs are posted that indicate what's ripe enough to eat and caddies, who know each season's harvests, provide guidance on both club and fruit selection. For more information visit


Irie-Fields-3.jpgCourtesy of Kittitian Hill


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Courses & Travel

Westchester golf course adds really cool floating 19th hole "to settle your bets"

Your match just ended all square after 18 holes. In most cases, your next move of heading to the 19th hole would mean going to the clubhouse bar. Never a bad plan.

But what if your course actually had a 19th hole? And what if that 19th hole involved a floating green?

Behind The Camera: Life on TPC Sawgrass' other island

Westchester Magazine has the story on this cool concept recently introduced by GlenArbor Golf Club in Bedford Hills, N.Y. Following their rounds, golfers there can hit a shot from near the clubhouse patio onto a green in the middle of a lake.

"It's the coolest shot in golf," GlenArbor head professional Brian Crowell told Westchester. "It's the perfect way to settle your bets -- or make a few more -- at the end of your round."


Nineteenth holes are becoming more common, but having a floating green is unique. The idea was the brainchild of Crowell and Michael Lehrer, owner of Home Green Advantage in Armonk.

GlenArbor's 19th is a 14-by-21-foot green that's a replica of the club's 14th green. The shot is 80 yards long, but it plays about 60 with the elevation drop and there are three different pin placements. No, you don't take a boat out there to putt out, but the tee shot alone is fun enough.

"There's also nothing more satisfying than watching your opponent's ball splash into the lake after yours lands safely on the green," Crowell said.

Related: Watch Brian Crowell's "Quick Tips" video series

Well, that and knowing golf's traditional 19th hole -- let's call it the 20th in this case -- is just a few steps away.

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Courses & Travel

Six things that happen when you go to the grand opening of Trump National Ferry Point

We were on hand for the grand opening of Trump National Ferry Point. Here are six things that happened:

1. The parks department gives you a history lesson about the land the course is built on. This particular section of the Bronx was once a landfill. After a few decades of back and forth, they've finally converted what was once a mess, into a golf course. (No one is quite sure how much money it actually took to make that happen. The closest answer? A ton.)  

Related: Golf courses that were built on unconventional sites

2. You get to play links golf. With the sloping fairways, fescue growing on mounds all over the course, and wind whipping off the East River, you could've thought you were in Ireland -- if Ireland had 90-degree days and a view of the Manhattan Skyline. 

3. You see the Trump helicopter, along with the rest of the family. Ivanka even hit a tee shot in heels. #impressed   


4. Jack and Barbara Nicklaus, show up -- as modest and lovable as ever. I had never met Jack before, and I fan-girled, as expected. And he was awesome, as expected.

5. You get to see a sense of community. In a city of millions, it can be easy to lose the camaraderie that comes with being a part of an active community. The course hired 60 Bronx residents. Everyone working there knows each other, and knows that the course they're working at is something unlike anything the Bronx has seen.  

6. Views! There are views of the East River, the Manhattan skyline, and both the Whitestone and Throgs Neck bridges from multiple spots on the course. But the best is coming up 18: When you're hitting in, the green feels like it's tucked under the Whitestone.  


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