RSG-Hershey  2007

Dave Tutelman -- June 26, 2007

Toward the end of May, Coops was asked about plans for RSG-Hershey and replied, "DaveT's picked it up..." News to me. Well, almost. I had been speculating in the discussion group about a DIY RSG-Hershey, since Coops had been mostly quiet. By that time, it was too late to set it up for June 8-10 (the usual timing) and I had some commitments for June already, so I went for June 22-24. Turned out to be a great decision weather-wise. We had beautiful sunshine and temperatures in the 70s all weekend. (It might have hit 80°F Sunday before we left the course, but it didn't feel like it was in the 80s.)

The crowd was small, even smaller than it usually is for Hershey. We had a core foursome of Fred Stluka, Terry Easton, Jon Green and me. We were joined for a few rounds by Coops and also Fred's nephew Matt Brophy. (Matt has played a few other events with us. I even remember his sharing our room and caddying for Fred at RSG-Pinehurst in 1998, when he was 14.)

Friday - Dauphin Highlands

Hey, y'all know the course; we play there every year. It's a good challenge, both for the golf and the physical conditioning -- lots of climbing. Here's Terry teeing off on the first hole, a downhill par-4. They get you on the next hole, though; you have to climb almost all the way back up. And the third goes all the way back down again. And so on for most of the course. We had a sunny day in the mid-70s, with a strong wind -- a 2-club wind for holes that are not protected by hills or tall trees.

I was hitting very good drives the front nine, but my approach shots were pretty awful. For instance, I hit my drive on #1 to the middle of the fairway only 100 yards from the green. Usually I have to play a 5-iron to this green after a decent drive, but this time my sand wedge flew the green and left me short-sided with the green running away. It was like that the first four holes: good drive, followed by badly-placed approach shot, leading to a double-bogey. By the time I righted the ship with a par on #5, I had dug a pretty deep hole for a scoring round -- took a 48 for the front nine, and pretty much did away with any chance to break 90.

My back nine was much better. I straightened out my approach shots and putted better, too. When Fred added up the scores, he told me I was going to have to give him 2 strokes a hole for the rest of the weekend, based on the back 9. Seems I had shot a 40 -- to give me a surprising 88 -- while he shot a worst-of-weekend 57. He said, "I felt like I was playing well. But when I counted strokes after each hole, it was a double or triple bogey."
Meanwhile, Terry was playing very solid golf. He wound up with an 80 for the round. Outstanding! As I said before, the course can be a real challenge.

But the biggest physical challenge for a walker shows up around the 17th hole. (That's Fred at the left, teeing off on #17.) The hole plays over a deep, steep wetlands ravine. The walk from tee to green is partway down into the ravine and back up. After you've caught your breath enough to putt out, you climb again, up that hill at the left of the picture, to the 18th tee.

We had dinner per tradition after a round at Dauphin: Gilligan's. Rather than order a big meal apiece, we shared a bunch of appetizers, soups, and salads. We discovered that not everybody agrees what consistutes good calimari, that their salad anchovies were OK, and the crab bisque was very good.

Saturday - Armitage

One good thing about the location of our motel (the Super-8 on North Front Street near I-81) was its accessibility to Armitage, where we played both Saturday rounds.

The morning round was still the "core four", and our scores were a mixed bag. Terry had the shot of the day on the third hole. It's a long, uphill par-3 with a very shallow green and traps front right and back left. It's very hard to hit; we were all using long irons or lofted woods. Terry completely topped his tee shot, leaving more than 100 yards to go. He then hit a beautiful, high short iron that landed on the front of the green and rolled in for a birdie. (As we shall see, that was practice for later in the weekend.)

I played well on the front nine, carding a 41 for my personal best for that nine. But then my game fell apart for the rest of the day. I had a 50 on the back nine, and didn't even break 90 -- which I should on Armitage, the easiest course of the weekend.

Jon provided the highlight of the morning round on the fifth hole, an uphill par-3. Terry and I hit the green and made easy pars. Jon missed way right, flubbed his pitch so he was barely on the fringe, and said sarcastically, "Hold on. Let me make my par and get out of your way." He did exactly that. Positive thinking!

The snack bar in the Armitage clubhouse is "The Caddyshack", a very good restaurant. Their "sandwedges" make the best between-rounds lunch I've ever had at a golf course. Outstanding! And the atmosphere is great as well; we ate on the deck, overlooking the ninth green.

Note to self: the Chevy Chase sandwedge (the whole menu is themed on the movie Caddyshack) is outstanding. Thin-sliced turkey breast, swiss cheese melted on, and cole slaw and Russian dressing. Vague resemblance to a Reuben -- which I love, too -- but sweeter and lighter.

Actually, the Caddyshack is a non-golfer's restaurant as well. When we were leaving after our second round, a little after six o'clock, families and couples were streaming in for Saturday night dinner.
I had left six hours between the morning and afternoon tee times. This is usually a good idea at RSG events where the daylight hours allow -- and we had the longest day of the year right before RSG-Hershey.

The morning round had gone quickly and the service was good at lunch, so we had lots of time to kill before our afternoon round. And we couldn't even go for an earlier tee time, because Coops was joining us for the afternoon -- so we knew we couldn't tee off more than a minute or two early. So we found productive ways to occupy the time. We worked on our putting on the practice green. We practiced chipping on the lawn near the practice green. And Fred "recharged his batteries" near the practice green.

I played the afternoon round with Fred and Coops. They were having a beer match. I was having trouble. For instance, I couldn't keep my shots in the fairway. Well, our fairway at least. We had a good time with one another -- hey, it was a beautiful day and we were on a golf course. How bad could it be, right? And I did handle two holes well, the treacherous 16th and 17th.
  1. This one is a par-4 whose fairway slopes sharply left-to-right... with OB right; it's almost impossible to keep a drive in the fairway. Hit too far left and you'll stay in the trees. (In the morning round, Jon cleared the trees to the middle of the 15th fairway, then played down that fairway. Actually, it worked well for him.) And if you land the drive in the fairway, it will kick and roll right to the rough, often behind trees and maybe even flirting with OB. A double-bogey often wins a skin here. Knowing this, and knowing that double-bogey is the best I've ever done at this hole, I decided to play it as a par-5. I used a conservative strategy of 6-iron, 6-iron, pitching wedge, and two-putted for my five. Take that, Jean Van de Velde! Nothing but fairways and greens. It was the best I've ever played it -- but Coops topped me by coming up with the first par I've ever seen at that hole.
  2. This is a 230-yard par-3. A good shot with a driver can reach it, but lose it a little right and you lose the ball down a steep slope and into the woods. I didn't even try to reach it. I put a 7-wood into the fairway well short of the green, and hit a 3/4 sand wedge to a foot -- for a tap-in par.
At least I played two holes well in the afternoon. But we still had our amusing episodes:

We went for dinner at the nearby Appalachian Brewing Company in Camp Hill. Good selection of their own beers. (They might have had brand names as well; I don't think anybody tried for it.) Very good food. We tried everything from pork schnitzel to tropical tilapia to crabmeat pizza. All good. Gotta remember this place for next time.

Sunday - Groff's Farm

We had six for our Sunday morning round; Coops joined us again, as did Matt Brophy. I played with Fred and Matt. The day was spectacular -- bright sun, not much wind, and it would not get hot until we were already off the course.

The greens were the fastest we encountered all weekend, with subtle breaks that wouldn't have had any effect if they were slower. I was striking the ball really well, but not scoring all that well because I had to play cagey on the greens. Even staying conservative, I wound up with 37 putts for the round. That was due to four 3-putts; of my three offsetting 1-putts, two were really tap-ins due to good pitches. Fred seemed to be handling the putting the best of our threesome.

Groff's Farm is mostly a links-style course, with rather few trees (at least as they affect the golf). Lots of steep hills, though not quite as much climbing as Dauphin. And a fair amount of deep, ball-grabbing, ball-losing hip-high grass, if you wander too far off the fairway in the wrong spot. (This isn't wispy "native fescue" either; it's thick as well as tall.) I think Fred managed to avoid losing any balls in it, but Matt and I lost at least one apiece in that stuff.

But there are three holes on the other side of the road that have a completely different flavor. On #7 and #9, trees really define the hole -- along with a wide, flowing stream at the boundary of the course.
  1. A twisty par-5, dictated by trees first on the left then the right, and dropping off a cliff 350 yards from the tee, to a green in front of the river. I managed a par there the textbook way: fairway, fairway, green, and 2-putt. First time I've ever played that hole "clean".
  2. The shortest par-3 you're likely to see on a course this tough. It's listed at about 100 yards, but plays much shorter because (a) it's steeply downhill and (b) you want very much not to go over the back -- or you're likely to be in the river. I put my tee shot just short of the green, and got up and down for par. Fred hit the middle of the green and stuck; he made a 12-footer for birdie. Matt got into the front bunker, had trouble getting out, and rang up a large number.
  3. A short par-4, requiring precision rather than power. You have to hit your tee shot around 180 yards to a landing area with a pond on the left and steep slope on the right. Miss it left and you're wet; Fred was saved from "wet" by hitting a tree and bouncing back. Miss it right of the landing area and a big tree blocks your approach to the green (as you can see in the picture, where Matt is teeing off). Matt and I missed it right. I chipped to a good position in the landing area. Matt went for it, trying to hit his ball over the tree -- and racked up another big number. Proving again that you must approach the green from a good spot, or you will be in the pond, the swamp in front, the deep stuff in the hillside right, or the woods back left. Or maybe more than one before you're done.
While we were teeing off on the ninth, we heard a big yell from the nearby tee box for the eighth hole. Terry's tee shot had found the cup on the short par-3 for an ace -- his lifetime third. (Photo by Jon Green.) He bought the pitcher after the round, as well as the hard stuff for those who preferred to celebrate that way.
Here is a hole that is vintage Groff's Farm. Fred is teeing off on the 13th hole, a severely uphill par-5 from the lowest point on the course to one of the higher points (the ridge at the top of the picture). The drive has to clear a wetlands area, without getting so far right that you lose it in one of the tall grass patches. Fred and Matt both managed to par this one.

The 14th goes back down the hill, a hole that plays shorter than it's listed because of the extreme slope. Fred and I proved that there are all sorts of ways to make a par. I hit the fairway with my drive, put an 8-iron in the middle of the green, and 2-putted. Ho hum. Fred missed way right in the rough, and his ball stopped on neither fairway nor green until it found the bottom of the cup.

On the 15th, Fred found trouble with the only stand of trees that comes into play on that side of the road. His tee shot placed him behind the trees, and his second shot bounced off them and way across the 17th fairway. But he recovered well. Matt hit a great 6-iron approach to within six feet of the pin. When we were done, we had two pars and a bogey -- and Fred could have made it three pars but for a lipped-out putt.

And here is our second threesome hitting their approaches on the last hole of the weekend. Left to right is Coops (hitting), Jon, and Terry.

After the round, we had lunch -- and ran up Terry's bar tab -- at Groffs' sports bar in the clubhouse. (Don't eat there is you're in a hurry; the food is OK, but the service is real slow. Noticed that last year too; apparently is was not a chance occurrence.) Then we said our goodbyes and headed for home.