Monday, August 24, 2009

The Shot-Makers Golf Course

There’s a golf course just off of North Carolina highway 87 about midway between Sanford and Spring Lake that’s always been known as a “shot-makers” layout. At least that’s what the old pro, the late Jimmy Overton, intended it to be when he built it in the late 1960s.

Measuring only 6339 yards from the back tees, the par-72 track with a 71.0 course rating and a 126 slope seems to be, on paper at least, an easy tour, a reprieve from the mega distance courses with difficulty or length on every shot.

In reality, the Ponderosa Golf Club requires skilled shot-making and the idea that a round of golf does not have to be played on pristine fairways and smooth, well manicured greens. It’s a simple layout that requires thinking off the tee and an understanding of the nuances of the wavy greens with pin positions that could putt (not to be confused with drive) you crazy.

About three miles in the “country” on the west side of “downtown” Olivia, a highway 87 crossroads 10 miles south of the center of Sanford and 15 miles north of the center of Spring Lake, the Ponderosa, with tight fairways, blind tee shots, skimpy Bermuda fairways, no sand traps, and greens still primarily made of its original Tifton 328 Bermuda, has a middle-class appeal though it’s surrounded by very nice homes of the Carolina Seasons development with its main entrance off of Ponderosa Road.

Opened in 1967, the Ponderosa was the idea and design of Overton, then head professional at the Sanford Golf Course. He wanted his own course and he wanted it for skilled golfers who knew how to create shots from various angles and how to be creative on tricky greens. The course is owned and operated today by his second son, Billy.

When it opened, the length was good for the technology of the day. But, even today, with balls and clubs offering more and more distance, good course management at the Ponderosa starts from each tee. There’s not a lot of distance from tee to green, but the layout of each hole prevents the long driver from bombing away. Being able to cut or draw a tee shot is what the elder Overton actually had in mind.

The greens, not guarded with sand traps at all, offer elevation changes though would frighten most golfers until a few putts are hit. The Tifton 328 base does not allow too many balls to continue to trickle to edges of greens, all of which have interesting contours. It’s not rare to have to negotiate a putt well off line and sometimes away from the hole to get it close or to have a chance to make birdie, salvage par or even be satisfied with bogey. There’s some consistency to the shapes of the greens, but each is different just as the holes are.

The opening hole, 415-yards, is a slight dogleg right which is now guarded by tall pines, well known at any course in the North Carolina Sandhills. To the left is rough and more pines. The right shot may be an iron or a fairway metal, leaving 150 yards to the green. But in either case off the tee, to get close enough to the green, a slight fade is required.

A blind tee shot is a difficult start to the straight-away second hole, just 410 yards long. From the tee, the fairway rises and slopes down hill to a small pond about 100 yards from the green. Though the fairways are sand based, the down hill trajectory offers plenty of roll with a possibility of a driver finding the pond.

The fourth hole is a very tight 363 yard offering with no bends while the fifth and sixth holes again are doglegs with their own unusual problems. The fifth, a 414-yard dogleg to the left which is rated the most difficult hole on the course, has a fairway that slopes left, and even the longest of hitters find it difficult to drive the ball beyond the slope. Keeping it to the right is a must or a shot down the middle will find the left rough and several pine trees to negotiate on the approach shot to the green. The sixth, just 369 yards, has out-of-bounds along the right side of the dogleg right, and a straight tee shot will find the rough to the left. So, playing a shorter tee shot is a must unless the driver is played with a slight cut that starts down the middle.

The two par threes on the front are not very difficult but interesting. The 160-yard third hole (photo above from the green to the tee) requires a tee shot through a tight opening of pine branches and then a complete carry over water. The eighth is a straight forward 190-yard up-hill hole to a green not completely seen from the tee.

The two par fives on the front could be though of as par 4s today, but when opened in the 1960s, the 465-yard seventh and the 420-yard ninth, where hard to reach in two for different reasons.

The seventh hole is all up-hill from tee to green with a slightly left-sloping fairway which causes the player to hit right. A small stand of trees guards the right side of the fairway and tee shots left in that direction cause second shot problems. Today, a well hit tee shot leaves not much more than a five or six iron in to a long narrow green with a sharp drop-off only its left side.

And the ninth hole is another tee shot problem. The fairway, a down-hill-to-the-landing-area and up-hill-to-the-green design narrows at the 150-yard marker. The back tees are pushed way right as is the green calling for a cutting tee shot with a driver to give a 160-yard approach or a shorter tee shot for accuracy to keep out of wooded trouble left and right. Though it is somewhat short for a par 5, a well-placed, tall, bushy pine tree guards the green, catching nearly every attempt up the right hand side.

The back nine is much of the same yet slightly shorter (3133 yards versus the front side 3206 yards) and seemingly more difficult.

It starts with a 485 yard par five to the right with a fairway that slopes left through the green. Long straight tee shots find the rough to the left, but a well placed drive allows for a mid-iron approach. Shorter tee balls don’t make it to the corner.

Though rated the 16th handicap hole of the course, the par 3 11th hole at 172 yards and up-hill, again requires an accurate hit through a tight teeing area.

The 12th, a 371-yard 85-degree dogleg right (yes, the hole actually comes back towards the tee little), remains a mystery to many who have played there over the years. When the back-nine opened about 15 months after the front, it was not unusual to try to pound drives over the corner only to get caught short. As technology improved, the tree grew taller and attempting to clear the corner today easily results is a low-running second shot under limbs. A fairway metal or long iron about 220 is all that’s needed, but a well-cut driver could be the club if accurate.

At 343, the 13th hole, and at 363, the 14th hole, seem to be short enough to easily conquer, but the corner on the slightly up-grade dogleg left 13th is about 250 from the tee, and the nearly straight-up-hill 14th hole, a small curve to the right, has a narrow fairway to anyone wanting to pound a tee shot. As the 14th fairway gets short in width, it drops drastically on the right side, gathering wandering first hits. An approach from there must be over two of those tall, bushy pines. A shorter tee shot to the left is the best play.

The par 3 15th hole is just 149 yards long but, depending on the wind, the up-grade shot may vary two to three club selections when trying to hit this long, narrow green.

From the back tees, maybe the most interesting hole is the 16th (which was the 18th hole when the course first opened). It’s 435 yards long and sets up as a dogleg right from an elevated tee. It’s another blind tee shot over pines for the longer hitters or to the right of the trees for others. In either case, the resting place for your drive must be along the middle to the left side of the fairway. About 50 yards from the green, one of those bushy pines is stuck in the right half of the fairway. Any tee shot behind it requires a low runner approach that is doubtful to hold the green.

The 17th hole is another somewhat easy looking par 5 at 445 yards down hill, but a creek guards the fairway at the bottom of the landscape and is possible to drive into. The approach is up-hill and, when close enough for a short iron, to a surface you can’t see.

The finishing hole is a straight-forward up-hill 370-yard par 4 which is not overly difficult or spectacular. When the Ponderosa first opened, it was actually the 11th hole, but was switch to the 18th to allow the pro shop and spectators to see when rounds are completed.

In retrospect, though, the 18th should have always been the final hole at the Ponderosa, just to follow Jimmy Overton’s teaching philosophy. He always wanted his students to finish on a high note to encourage them to return. Pars and birdies do that, he would say. The 18th is not hard to play and allows all golfers the chance complete the round with a good score on the final hole. It’s less of a shot-makers hole, different from the rest of the course.

Golf is different from every player. Some prefer the beautiful drives to the clubhouse; some want to make sure the fairways are lush and forgiving; others want greens that hold every shot; and some want vistas that take them away from the misery of their game.

At the Ponderosa Golf Club, the game is basic. Hit your tee shot where it needs to be. Play the ball as it lies off thin fairways that might mean just sand underneath. Be creative on your approach shot, sometimes with bump and runs and at other times with enough trajectory to keep the ball from bounding over the firm greens. Learn to put from off the greens; learn to putt from on the greens with not a lot of break and a bit of firmness in the stroke.

The Ponderosa is not overly difficult on paper. It’s not a glamorous name by a well-known designer or even an inviting layout as you drive to the clubhouse. But it’s friendly, nice and low-key for golfers who want a shot-making challenge and experience.

For more information about tee times and rates at the Ponderosa and for directions to the course, call: 919-499-4013.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The last three holes

Maybe since the inception of the North Carolina Golf Panel's ranking of golf courses in North Carolina, Old North State Club at Badin Lake as been ranked second in the state, behind Pinehurst #2. I'm told that the last three holes at Old North State are primary to being ranked as high as the 2nd slot.

All three holes bring the lake into play. There are five others that require approach shots hit to greens with the picturesque lake in the background and of those, there's a chance water will come into play on four: #2, #4, #7 (play video above: representative on my bad play that day), and #14. The view from the tee at #9 (photo right) offers the lake as a background to the green but it's across the street to the clubhouse and across the 18th fairway.

But, numbers 16, 17 and 18 offer spectacular water views and bring the liquid into play on your approach to the par 4 16th hole, from the tee on the par 3 17th hole and from the tee, your second shot and approach shot on the par 5 18th hole.

I recently had the chance to play at Old North State, honestly a course I do not rank second in the state. No doubt it's one of the overall best we offer in North Carolina, from the front gate and back with a wonderful clubhouse, lots of terrific hospitality by the entire staff, especially head professional Tom Ducey, and 18 holes of golf that test you with every shot. And, while the last three holes offer spectacular views and a tough tests of the game, so do nearly all 18 holes at Grandfather Golf and Country Club in Linville. There's plenty of water which comes into play on that mountain course.

But back to Old North State. As I said, I recently had the privilege of playing there, and I was not doing well enough to go over every shot. But when I got to the 16th tee, I remembered the accolades always given from that spot to the end of the round, and I was reminded by my playing partners of the make or break element of the final three holes. So I went to work, trying not to embarrass myself any more than I had prior to that point in the round.

The 16th hole (left) is a picturesque, 427-yard downhill par four with the lake as a backdrop for the entire journey. The water and its marsh wrap around the left side of the green to near the middle of the front. From the tips, better golfers might choose a three wood but I'm holding my driver. The other three have positioned their tee balls to the left middle of the fairway to avoid trees on the right that stick out slightly into possible driving area. An initial shot that resides along that side may require a cut-shot approach that must be aimed to the water finger. My tee ball is well hit, starts directly down the middle, but the left to right breeze must have caught its flight as the ball veered slightly right. I found it about 157 from the green just off the fairway, sitting on mulch in the crease of an area cut around one of those trees. The pin was on the front, so the right club--an 8-iron--was out of the question because of limbs that might have caught the higher arc. I chose a choked down 7-iron that was well struck but not full. It landed on the first third of the putting surface but rolled to the back of the green, at least 60 feet from the hole. The down-hill putt was struck too hard, leaving an up-hill 15 footer which I hit center cup for my par. One hole conquered and two to go.

The 17th (right) is a magnificent par 3, 197 yards long that appears to be a dogleg left. With water in front of the tee and along the left side of the hole and green, the common tee shot results are to the right of the green, either short or in the right bunker, especially with the pin placed in the front middle. My gut said hit a five iron, but I wanted to make sure I carried the green, and I have a tendency to roll on my five and bend it largely left, or I push it more to the right and I did not want to be in the bunker right or even right of the bunker. The wind was in my face, so, I hit 4-iron which was well struck. Too well struck. It hit middle of the green and came to rest in the sand bunker behind the green, leaving a 25-yard down-hill sand shot. With the power of positive thinking that I might barely get it out of the sand and onto the green for a very long par attempt or that I might pick it clean and watch it fly into the water, I chose my lob wedge, opened the face as wide as possible, took a hard swing, hit about two inches behind the ball, popped it up to the middle of the green, but it was down-hill and the ball rolled about 10 feet past the pin. It was actually quite a good sand play, and I calmly rolled that in for a par 3.

Because of my bad play for most of the day, the 18th tee was the first time I had honors for the entire round. I was looking at a 90-degree dogleg left par 5 that measures 568 yards with water all the way from tee to green. It's hittable in two, but the tee shot needs to hug the water, stay in the fairway, get the right bounce and roll and end up closer to the corner about 260 from the green. Even at that your second shot must be played as a draw giving it all the roll possible. Some will say they can get there from closer to the tee with an iron. Go ahead and try, I say.

As I addressed my tee ball, "Hello Titleist ProV1 with a University of Houston logo," I set my aiming point for the 18th hole (left) as far right from the lake as I could without leaving the fairway. Then I pushed it right along the cart path on which the ball came to rest well away from the green but somewhat with a straight line to the putting surface without bringing the water into play. I took my appropriate drop and chose 6-iron, though the idea of hitting 4+ metal did briefly cross my mind. The six-iron was a well struck slight draw that started along the right side of the fairway and came to rest in the dead middle of the low-cut green grass 100 yards from the pin. At this point I was thinking birdie. But for some reason on the downward motion when trying to hit a solid 56 degree wedge, the arms and club slowed just enough to cause a chunk. The ball stopped about 20 yards from the green. Now, my "lost interest" mode took over and the fourth shot rolled past the pin, caught a downward slope and ended up about 20 feet past the hole. I was confident I would roll it in, but the break was not correctly read or the stroke was off or the hole moved. In any event, I made a six.

They say the results of the last hole is what brings you back to golf and to certain golf courses. Most people believe that's true when you make a great par or a birdie. The bogey at 18 will bring me back. I know I can do better.

Every course has its Augusta National's Amen Corner, three holes somewhere within the 18 that are the toughest three straight on the course. It's because of length, or shot-making requirements for shorter holes or the treachery found on the greens. It has to be with the risk-reward factor: Can I cut off the corner of the lake on #18 at Old North State on my second shot and get closer to the green? It may be a different stretch for different golfers. For me, at Pinehurst #2, it's just about any three in a row, but the par 5 4th hole, the par 4 5th hole and the par 3 6th are maybe its toughest back to back to back. Also 16, 17 and 18. Or maybe 10, 11, 12. At MacGregor Downs Country Club in Cary, it's the 11th (454-yard down-hill dogleg right, par 4), 12th (232-yard, par 3), 13th (414 yard, up-hill, par 4).

At Old North State, it's 16, 17 and 18 for everyone. The holes are tough, scenic, interesting, challenging, but when played properly, they can be conquered. While the remainder of the course is very good, it's the last three holes that make this course one of the best North Carolina has to offer. It's the three-hole run that all who play there discuss before and after the round.

I just did. I'll be back, hopefully.

To view more of my photos from Old North State Club, go to:

Sunday, July 12, 2009

WOW! What a course: Lonnie Poole Golf Course

The entire 18 holes opened this weekend. I played 36 holes: 18 on Saturday afternoon walking with a push cart for my clubs and 18 Sunday morning in a riding cart. Each round took less than three hours to play. I was by myself most of the time each day, though I played the last seven Saturday with a couple I caught up with on 12th tee.

87 Saturday; 81 Sunday. Black tees. 6,901 yards. 69.3 course rating. 131 slope.

No doubt the hardest part of playing the course is the bunkers. For the most part, the sand is very soft and deep. Tough to get out. Lots of opportunities to get in and to have long shots to the green, even in bunkers near the greens. Islands of natural grass in the sand bunkers all over the place. Four-inch lips all the way around. I firmly believe that's a design flaw. A ball just barely in any sand bunker leaves you with no shot whatsoever. Deep edges on the forward lip is okay. The bunkers are so large that locating a rake after playing from within is a pain. The natural areas inside the sand bunkers make it difficult to locate your ball. I've been told the best method for playing out of sand bunkers is to avoid them. That's very true at this course.

Holes 2-7 are wonderful tests, especially #3 and #5. Right now, #3 from the black tee is a 526 par four. The white tee is 501 yards. They may move the tees ahead a little or they may change par to 5, changing the total to 72 from 71. I think i hit the ball rather long for my 57 years, but even Saturday's tee shot from 526 left me with a 275+ shot over a natural area and a series of sand bunkers. (See photo above.) A neat six iron to the natural area with a good 7 iron gets you to the back of the green.

The fifth hole is 459 yard par four with somewhat of an up-hill tee shot over a hill and then down to a green that's actually up-hill again. Go figure. Just getting your tee shot to the fairway is tough.

I also like the 13th hole, a devilish 434-yard dogleg right par four. The entire right hand side of the fairway is trouble with a very large sand bunker and other natural grass and then a sand bunker on the right side of the green. There is no bail-out area to the left as a sand bunker sits just off the green on the left side.

No doubt Lonnie Poole is an interesting golf course. It has a nice practice range and large and relatively flat putting practice green. No area right now to practice sand shots, and believe me, it would be nice to have that there.

This course was built with donations by hundreds of NC State enthusiasts. There are no memberships. It's a daily fee facility.

If you want to see more photos I took this weekend, go to: JIM POMERANZ PHOTOS OF LONNIE POOLE GOLF COURSE. You may have to create an account (no charge) to view the photos.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Lonnie Poole Golf Course opens: sort of

It’s not a record that will last. It probably didn’t last the day. I know it didn't last the weekend. And, it wasn’t anything official. It was a very weak 89, shot on a make-shift nine hole course played twice Saturday, June 27, 2009 at the Lonnie Poole Golf Course at NC State University.

The significance of the score and the round is minimal at best but it did mark the lowest score of the first completed round of the new golf course built on the University’s Centennial Campus in Raleigh. A dream for nearly half a decade and under construction for a couple of years, the opening of the Lonnie Poole Golf Course was reality that day when four of us teed off on the first hole at 8:03 a.m. The facility was open only to the Charter Partners, those who made financial donations to build the public course.

The full 18-hole layout is expected to open July 11, again only for donors for two days, and then to the public. Arnold Palmer, whose company designed the course, is expected July 31 for the official opening ceremony, open to donors only by invitation only! But, the tee shot I hit was tremendously satisfying because the course was open, at last!

The honors on the first hole were mine for one reason: I was playing from the Black tees while the others chose the White. There are six sets of tees at Lonnie Poole, the longest of which are the Competition tees measuring 7,358 yards on the par 71 layout. The Black course is 6,901 yards; White 6,326 yards; Gray 5,605; and, Red 4,976. For first day, only nine holes were open: 1, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 15, 16, and 17 which included four par four holes, and three par fives and two par threes. The Black distance for those nine: 3,584 yards which meant I was playing—and walking with a push cart—a hilly 18-hole course of 7,168 yards playing to a par 74.

Standing over the ball, it took a moment to realize the significance, if any, of what I was doing, and then all I wanted to do was avoid things: a cold-top, one that could go about 30 yards before thick fescue rough would have stopped it; the sandy bunker along the right side of the fairway and easily within my teeing length; a snap hook into the 10th fairway; a strong fad to knee high grassy rough, possibly un-findable.

My swing was unusually slow and nearly perfect; the air-born ball split the fairway between the left side of the sand bunker and the hole’s left side rough and came to rest in the fairway about 270 yards from the green on this wonderful opening 542-yard up-hill, down-hill slight dogleg right par five. “Let it be noted that Jim Pomeranz hit the first tee shot hit on the course and it was in the fairway,” said managing editor Tim Peeler, a member of the foursome.

I was thrilled, so much so that—while thinking birdie—two topped-shots later combined with the drive, two more hits and two putts, I walked off the green with a disappointing double bogey 7. I refuse to bore you with the details of my play for the remainder of the round; but before you hear about the nine holes we played, I admit to one other shot of significance.

It was my tee ball on the 11th hole, a 631-yard par five that runs west to east parallel to Interstate 40. (For those who know the area, the course is very near the State Farmers Market.) The fairway is easily wide enough to avoid trouble, but I believe the extremely strong left hand gripe with a wide-open club face, an open stance and a swing that screamed of the ball going right resulted in a enormously hard right fade that started right, flew across a special practice tee for the NC State men’s golf team, the immediate rough, a fence, more high grass and trees and towards the highway where I’m somewhat confidence it landed. “Let it noted that Jim Pomeranz hit the first shot onto Interstate 40,” announced Peeler who was Twittering the entire round accounting for the nearly five and a half hours of play.

The course sits at a very high point in Wake County. It actually overlooks downtown Raleigh and its impressive skyline. There are views of the Dorthea Dix campus nearby. From the 11th tee, you can see the top third of the NC State Memorial Bell Tower located about 2.5 miles away as the crow flies. The top of the campus smokestack can be seen as well as other familiar landmarks. Just looking away from the course can make one forget the tough mission of moving around the layout.

Lonnie Poole Golf Course offers many different challenges but will eventually be a very fair venue with enough toughness for the best of golfers. The nine holes we played required many different shots. However, and this is usually not the case with all golf courses, I was able to hit full driver from each par four and par five without much worry. Even at 57 years of age, I was hitting tee shots from 270 to over 300 yards, giving lots of credit to the well mowed and hard fairways that gave way to lots of roll most of the time. From the White tees, my four metal would have seen much more action.

That sand bunker on the first hole can be cleared with a solid hit, and it sets up a second shot from a much flatter lie than from where my tee ball stopped further left. With a very good poke, one can reach the first green in two, but the shot would be a blind hit that would have to head just left of the green and get a good roll. The better shot is a lay-up six iron to about 100 yards out.

From the first hole, we went to the 169-yard eighth hole, an uphill par three. Only the front edge of the green is visible from any tee box. Two sand bunkers guard the green, but don’t be fooled; there is little or no green over the bunker on the right. Miss to the left and you’re either in high rough or on the 9th tee box. It's a good seven or an easy six iron shot depending on the wind, at least during this time of year.

The ninth—if it were the 18th—would be an excellent finishing hole for two good reasons. It has good length and is challenging to play; and, the green sits down in a half bowl allowing for spectators to watch from above the green. From the Black tees, the par four measures 439, uphill from the tee with a sand bunker about 280-yards out on the right, projecting about a third of the way across the fairway. Left of the fairway is trouble, and there’s no other way to call it. The hole actually appears to bend slightly to the left, but that more of an illusion due to the bunkering along the left near and at the green. For the longer hitters, the tee ball must be middle to left.

The 10th is short—369 yards, par 4—and a full driver is okay, keeping short of the bunker on the right that starts about 80 yards in front of the green and continues to the putting surface. My first tee shot on 10 was on the right side of the fairway, and from there, just a 56-degree wedge was required but I could not see the surface of the green. Second time through, I hit down the left side and the same distance but from that spot, nearly the entire putting surface came into view, making the shot easier.

The 631-yard par five 11th hole looks tough but if played as a par five about the only problem will be making sure your approach shot clears the bunkering the guards the green for about 100 yards in front of and to the left of the green. It’s listed as the 2nd handicap hole, but a good tee shot and an easy lay-up will give you a challenging but not too tough third attempt.

The par four 12th defies physics. It’s a dogleg left with bunkering within reach of the tee shot to the left side of the fairway, but the fairway has a crest in the middle and the right side slopes way right. It’s sort of a damned if you do and damned if you don’t tee ball. The hole measures 424 yards but it’s down hill. Maybe it was the hardness of the fairway or maybe just the downhill slope, but I was gaining yardage from the tee and standing over second shots with short wedge shots. A four-wood from the tee may be the best giving a little, but not much, longer second shot, maybe a 9-iron instead of a wedge.

Of the nine holes we played, the 15th is the only one with water that actually comes into play. It’s pretty much a straight 504-yard par five that makes you think it’s a double dogleg. There’s a 300-yard long pond on the left to avoid from the tee and there’s a pond on the right that starts where the other pond stops and runs all the way up to the green. Hit it right off the tee and left towards the green towards a series of bunkers. Layup second shots may be the order of the day but hitting the green in two is possible for longer hitters.

No. 16 is the optical illusion hole with three small pot bunkers in the middle of the fairway on this 379 yard hole. From the tee, the three look side by side, but that’s not the case. The middle bunker is 20 yards closer to the tee than the others. Drive right or left of the middle bunker and you should be okay for a short approach shot to the only elevated green of the make-shift nine hole round, maybe of all the holes on the course.

Our final hole was number 17, a very short par 3. From the Black tees, it’s just 127 to the middle. It’s only 118 from the White. And it’s down hill. Matter of fact, the shorter the tee shot, the more down hill it is. One bunker guards the front and another is placed to the left, sort of out of play unless the cup is cut on that part of the green.

Speaking of greens: Wonderful! Smooth. No ball marks. (We were the first off, ever.) Not too fast but the putts rolled out. Very much feel putting. Faster than they looked but even down hill attempts with the right touch kept a good line and stopped near the hole. Easy to read. Some contours that required creative attempts such as on 17 having to putt nearly perpendicular to the hole to a point, hoping the ball would nearly come to a stop before casually rolling right toward the hole and stopping just an inch to the left. No Donald Ross-type edges where the ball not only rolls off but way off. Pretty much flat around the edges then a cut fringe and rough the height of a ball or so.

It was hot Saturday: 97 degrees. As noted, I walked. And I enjoyed it. The 89 strokes were disappointing for someone with an 8 handicap but then it was a par 74. I hit eight of 14 fairways but only four greens in regulation and had 30 putts. Lots of bad approach shots and one penalty for hitting onto I-40. No news of broken windshields or wrecks in that area Saturday

I enjoyed it so much that I returned Sunday for another 18, this time by myself (except for the last three holes when someone in a cart caught up with me) in the middle of the 94-degree afternoon. Just under three hours. Shot 82 with 33 putts, five hit fairways and eight greens in regulation. Much better. Missed a six foot birdie putt on the 11th hole. Played several holes smarter than during the opening round. Hey, just 8-over par for the day on a course that’s partially open. And, unless someone tells me otherwise, a new course record from the Black tees. Hah! Hah!

It’ll not be an everyday visit for me to Lonnie Poole, but with a very nice practice range, large putting green and easy access to the course, it’s definitely on my short list of places to visit regularly. The other nine holes will be equally as interesting, so maybe I’ll let you know what they’re like after July 11. Thanks for reading.

For more information, including the location and rates, about the Lonnie Poole Golf Course at NC State University go to