Planning the perfect golf trip Pt. 1: The Legacy Golf Course in Springfield, Tenn.
Every year for 20 years now, David Butts has been planning a 4-day golf trip for nearly 40 guys. Since 1998, I’ve been fortunate enough to be among them. An invitation to join is coveted, because once you’re in, you’re in for life.
This is the most unique group of men I’ve ever met. Not one among them is a jerk, and despite the fact that our ages range from 21 to 83, and our politics and jobs all vary widely, everyone gets along famously.
There is some alcohol, but never in excess. The jokes can be bawdy, but never obscene. And golf scores range from the low 100s to the mid 70s, but no one is ever put out by or embarrassed by poor shots.
Finding such a wonderful group is obviously paramount to a successful golf trip. Of secondary but still critical concern is locating quality courses that meet the criteria of price, quality, playability, and service. David somehow always finds both new and old courses to meet these requirements as well.
Of course, there will be some disagreement among 40 guys whether a course is worth a second visit or not. Take for example the first course we played this year: The Legacy Golf Course in Springfield, Tenn.
The Legacy is a 10-year-old, 6,776-yard Raymond Floyd design. Some of our group really liked the course; others didn’t. I was in the latter camp, though I tried not to let my personal feelings about Floyd cloud my objectivity. Before I criticize, let me say that head pro Rafe Corder was a true southern gentleman, his staff was extremely cordial, the conditions were pristine, and the rates ($32 weekdays, $42 weekends, including cart) were remarkably fair, whether you love the course or not.
I also liked the greens, contrary to many of the guys in our group. The putting surfaces were huge, and divided into essentially four quadrants. In order to have a realistic chance at one- or two-putting, you needed to stick your approach on the right quadrant (or be an exceptional putter).
Having said this, even the green design points toward the thing I didn’t like about The Legacy: There was essentially one way to play each hole. Strategic options were not available. Without precise shots into circumscribed positions (on fairways or greens), you were simply not going to score.
Because most fairways were hemmed in by either OB or hazards on both sides, wayward tee shots incurred almost automatic penalties. There was no rough to speak of between the fairways and the OB/hazards, so even slightly hot balls running into trouble had nothing to stop them. The OB generally consisted of McMansion yards, and the hazards were so overgrown that one couldn’t even find a ball, much less hit it.
So as I say, wayward shots were automatically penalized, no chance for recovery, no chance to play in from a more difficult angle where you might actually salvage par (or bogey). This makes for a long day of golf.
Worst of all for me, I found the tee shots to be almost uniformly awkward. Nothing fit my eye, and there were as many blind tee shots as not. I’m sure after playing a few times, I would learn where the lines were, where the blind landing areas were nestled, and where the occluded contours would and would not accept various shots. But local knowledge is something that guys on a golf trip simply don’t have with the courses they play.
The worst example for me of this awkwardness was No. 10, with OB left and a jagged scar of a water hazard fronting the green. The railroad ties fronting the putting surface looked like an afterthought to shore up the bank, rather than an intrinsic feature of the hole.
This is not to say that some holes didn’t strike me as pretty. Number 6 was a very pretty par 3 over wetlands to an elevated green. (Although the tee marker and the scorecard showed quite different yardages.)
And it is also not to say that no one liked the course. My brother-in-law and his foursome were all driving the ball very straight. But they had trouble putting, so didn’t care for the almost over-the-top undulation in the greens. All in all though, they thought it was a solid layout.
So Lesson One when planning a golf trip is that you can’t please everyone all the time, even when your group comprises the 40 most agreeable guys you’d ever want to meet. Lesson Two is that everyone is out to have fun, so if possible, find courses that allow you to. Playability and memorability can co-exist.
The Legacy Golf Course in Springfield, Tenn.
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