by Scott MacLeod, Associate Publisher
Almost three weeks into the new year and judging by my inbox, readers are chomping at the bit to get to the golf course. With that in mind I want to ask each and every one of you to give something a consideration this season.
One of the most overused terms in golf writing is the term “hidden gem”. In its early use it conveyed golf courses that was off the beaten track and were unlikely to draw the attention of the common golf crowd.
It was not long before the term became worn out and over-applied. Even if a golf course was located in a major city people were still using the phrase. It did not apply, and frankly, often did a disservice of sorts to unique qualities of the lesser known layouts.
I am not concerned about what you call them though – I want you to play them. Or at least give them a shot.
Better yet, I want you to appreciate them. They are the essence of golf.
In latest blossoming period of golf (1990’s) many of those drawn to it had their image of the grand old game shaped by a marketing professional. 7200 yards, hosting a PGA TOUR event and an exorbitant green fee became some of the standards defining what made a golf course “great.” They defined the trophies to hang on the wall.
It’s a shame because this polished version of golf, in my opinion, is not the best example of the sport.
Those who have wandered the fairways where the game was fostered, the United Kingdom, know better. While many golf tourists to the UK tend to seek out the “sweater & cap courses”, even golf tourists who initially chase souvenirs often leave with something more – a new appreciation for their chosen activity.
They soon accept that golf played on its ancestral grounds often comes in a form that is rougher, quirkier, shorter, and faster – standards that modern developers squeezed out of the sport in an effort to shape it to fit their own capitalist needs.
When you translate those same flavours to a golf course in North America people often turn up their nose. Although the residents of Scotland, Wales, England, and Ireland (and other true golf fans) understand that the courses NOT in the Open Championship rota are often the best ones to play, in the U.S. and Canada we are not often willing to take a risk and play an unfamiliar property.
Even if a golf course has some “throwaway holes” within it you can frequently find one or two that leave you surprised, invigorated, and even more in love with the game than when you left the first tee.
As I write this my mind wanders to courses from Texas to Nova Scotia (White Point Golf Course is pictured) that I have come upon by chance. None will ever make the top 100 lists you find in glossy pages but that is part of their charm. Their lack of widespread recognition should not scare you away.
You can find both challenge and joy in their fairways, and usually at a decent pace and price to boot.
This world is littered with them and I urge you to take a chance in 2016 and play a few courses that you may be unfamiliar with.
While these are usually the places locals like to keep to themselves I’ve yet to find somebody that does not welcome a fellow golfer with open arms.
There are no strangers among golfers, after all.
It should be the same for golf courses as well.
Don’t be afraid to reach out an acquaint yourself with a few real “hidden gems” in 2016.