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Jon Cavalier

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Autumn at Somerset Hills CC - Photo Tour
« on: October 27, 2014, 07:16:14 PM »
I've recently been on a bit of a Tillinghast Tour, and last week, I was fortunate to be able to play Somerset Hills, Quaker Ridge and Fenway Golf Club.  Previously, I'd played the East Course at Baltimore Country Club / Five Farms, Ridgewood Country Club, Bethpage Black and Red, and the Wissahickon Course at Philadelphia Cricket Club, as well as some lesser lights.  I mention this because, while I very much enjoyed each of these courses (more than a few of which are undeniably great), I feel like this gives me a good base from which to opine that Somerset Hills is the best that I've seen of Tillinghast's work.

Tilly's Redan


I've always been aware of Somerset Hills and its status as a fine, if low-key, private facility, as it sits some 60 miles as the crow flies from Philadelphia, but its reputation, at least down this way, is often overshadowed by Tillinghast's tournament venues - Baltusrol, Winged Foot and Bethpage (disclaimer -- I have yet to play Baltusrol or Winged Foot).  I've heard that is the club's intent.  But from the moment I hit the entrance to the property, Somerset Hills exceeded my expectations in every regard.  It's beautiful, strategic, interesting, unique and fun, and the condition of the course was fantastic and conducive to good golf.  I can't speak highly enough about it.  

Sunshower over Nairn


On the day we played, we had varied weather conditions - bright sun, full cloud cover, some light fog/mist, a little rain and even a sunshower.  Add in the bright fall colors that adorned the area, and you have a golf course that was practically crying out to be photographed.  So I obliged. (For Ran's excellent profile of Somerset Hills, click here - http://golfclubatlas.com/courses-by-country/usa/somerset-hills-country-clu/ ).

Fall at Somerset Hills


I hope you enjoy the tour.  


The Entrance
Somerset Hills is in Bernardsville, NJ.  The drive to the club winds through some gorgeous areas replete with horse farms and open spaces.



The Clubhouse
The understated clubhouse fits in well with the rest of the club.



The Scorecard
Each of the holes at Somerset Hills is given a name (a practice that I, for some reason, support and enjoy very much).  The course plays to 6,756 from the championship tees and 6384 from the regular tees to a par of 71.  




Hole 1 - "Orchard" - 448yds - Par 4
Somerset Hills opens with a long, tough par 4 -- no gentlemen's handshake here.  The first is a dogleg right with a slight rise obscuring the landing area from the tee.  


An apple orchard sits inside the dogleg -- both green and red apples are grown at Somerset.  


The first hole gives the player an introduction to the beautiful terrain at Somerset, which was put to good use by Tillinghast.  The green is tilted from left to right, while the "safe" miss to the right is guarded by several bunkers.


The view from behind the first green, illustrating the wonderful contours within the putting surface.



Hole 2 - "Redan" - 205yds - Par 3
Tilly's Redan.  Somerset Hills starts off tough.  I've played around three dozen versions of the redan, and this is easily one of the best I've played.


From the back tee, the player is fully aware that a direct approach to the left pin is not advisable.


This view, from just short of the 8th green, shows the beautiful way in which Tillinghast draped this hole over the existing terrain.


Tilly's Redan green has some of the most extreme internal movement of any green at Somerset, and of any Redan, for that matter.  Some say this hole is diminished because so few pin positions exist.  I would not complain if this green was pinned in exactly this spot every day.  This hole plays exactly as a Redan should play.



Hole 3 - "Bunker Hill - 376yds - Par 4
An apt name for a wonderful hole, the third plays to a wide fairway.  The angle left for the approach is critical here.  On this day, a passing storm provided an added challenge.


The ideal approach on 3. Through the raindrops.


Full view of the 3rd green, as seen from the 6th tee.


The reward for our soldering on through five minutes of light rain was this rainbow over the 3rd green.



Hole 4 - "Dolomites" - 457yds - Par 4
A wonderful par 4, the player's eye is drawn to the striking "dolomites" mounding that Tillinghast put in to separate the parallel 4th and 6th holes.  Notice how the green is simply an extension of the fairway.  A bunker guards the ideal spot from which to approach this green.


The approach to 4.  While artificial, the dolomites add to, rather than detract from, this beautiful par 4.  The way Tillinghast used these mounds to frame the hole reminded me of the 2nd at Myopia.


Not position "A".


The view back down the 4th fairway.  Elevation plays a role at Somerset, even on the much more subdued front nine.



Hole 5 - "Nairn" - 343yds - Par 4
The first short par 4 at Somerset Hills, this little beauty provides the player with his first good chance at birdie, as most players will carry the bunker guarding the inside of the slight dogleg...


...and have nothing more than a wedge into the green.  However...


...this is no ordinary green!


These mounds guard the right rear quadrant of the 5th green and will provide quite the interesting putt if enmeshed in them (sadly, the club does not pin this green in between the mounds).  



Hole 6 - "Plateau" - 501yds - Par 5
The second "easy" hole in a row, the 6th is a dogleg right that can be cut off the tee by the longer player.  


The 6th also brings the player back into the dolomites, and cuts across the old race track which Tillinghast incorporated into his design.


The view from behind the 6th green shows both the substantial back to front slope of the putting surface and the open and expansive feel of the front nine at Somerset Hills.



Hole 7 - "Racetrack" - 484yds - Par 4
Perhaps the best par 4 on the front nine, the 7th begins with a tee shot over a rise in the fairway, which obscures the green and the landing area.


The downhill approach from the left side of the fairway on 7.  


Again, the fairway blends seamlessly into the green.  Running approach shots are permitted and encouraged here.


The view back up the gorgeous 7th.



Hole 8 - "Dip" - 230yds - Par 3
Suffice it to say that the two one-shotters on the front nine at Somerset Hills are not the easiest par that you'll find.  Given its length, Tillinghast built this long par 3 with a large, deep green.


This wide view from behind the 8th green reveals the intricate and challenging character of the putting surface.



Hole 9 - "Westward Ho" - 529yds - Par 5
An uphill, dogleg left par 5, the 9th plays around the apple orchard and back up to the clubhouse.


The fairway, which divides like the tounge of a snake, dead-ends at a complex of mounding and bunkers.  The orchard is visible to the left of the fairway.


This view from the 9th green shows the substantial cant of the fairway and the benefits of a low draw into this green.


The substantial drop left of the 9th green, and the fantastic fall colors at Somerset Hills.



Hole 10 - "Sunningdale" - 496yds - Par 5
The second of back-to-back par 5s bookending the turn, the 10th plays downhill and around a dogleg right...


...then back up a slight rise to a well-defended green set back in a wooded knoll.  This is the only non-original Tillinghast green on the course, which was lost when this hole was lengthened many years ago -- the site of the original green is still visible, marked by subtle lines in the right side of the fairway and right rough, in the photo below.


The view from behind the 10th flag.



Hole 11 - "Perfection" - 412yds - Par 4
Holes 11-18 at Somerset Hills have a distinctly difficult flavor than Holes 1-10.  The latter plays across mostly open plain with some modest elevation change, while the former plays through and around much more dramatic terrain.  The 11th plays downhill to a landing area that looks much smaller than it is, then doglegs 90 degrees right and back up to the green.  The par 3 12th green is visible in the background of the photo below.  This is a beautiful golf hole.


The challenging approach shot on 11, back up a slight rise to an undulating green.


This panoramic shot shows the setting of the 12th and 11th greens.


The excellent green complex at 11.



Hole 12 - "Despair" - 151yds - Par 3
Aptly named, as many players surely find it here.  The first short par 3 at Somerset Hills is by no means easy, as the green slopes so severely from back right to front left that the hole plays somewhat like a reverse redan.  A beautiful hole in a gorgeous setting.


The view from behind and above the 12th green, with the 11th hole in full view.



Hole 13 - "Corner" - 409yds - Par 4
Once again, the landing area is blind to the tee on this par 4.  Bunkers on the right guard the desired side of this fairway.


The approach from the left side into the 13th green, over the center bunkers, to a green...


...bisected by a Biarritz-like swale.  Great pin position, very fun hole.



Hole 14 - "Ridge" - 416yds - Par 4
A wide fairway with a slight incline makes for a slightly uncomfortable tee shot.  Once again, the angle left from the tee shot is of high importance on this hole.


The approach into 14, with a massive infinity green.


The 14th is one of the largest and most undulating greens on the course.  The variety of great pin positions available on this hole is astounding.



Hole 15 - "Happy Valley" - 407yds - Par 4
The club considers the 15th their "signature hole," and I wouldn't argue that designation.  The favored ball here is a cut over the bunker and down the hill.


The beautiful setting of the 15th green, guarded front and left by a meandering stream.


Gorgeous.



Hole 16 - "Deception" - 170yds - Par 3
The 16th is akin to a shorter reverse redan, as the green slopes significantly from right to left.  Putting down from the high left side to the pictured pin position often results in a chip for one's third shot.


The 16th green from behind, with the 17th green in the background.  What a wonderful setting for golf!



Hole 17 - "Quarry" - 387yds - Par 4
The first of two shorter par 4s that complete the round at Somerset Hills, the 17th plays up over an abrupt rise, then...


...falls steeply downhill to the green.  This hole plays shorter than the yardage indicates, but hitting the green is critical, as it slopes steeply off on all sides.


This view from behind the 17th green shows the drastic elevation change.


As does this panoramic view of the 17th green and 18th tee.



Hole 18 - "Thirsty Summit" - 335yds - Par 4
The short 18th opens with a tee shot back up the rise toward the clubhouse.


As its name would indicate, the 18th finishes mere steps from the clubhouse, and its well appointed bar.


As the player climbs the 18th fairway, he is afforded this view of the 10th and 17th greens behind and below him.


The gorgeous view across the 18th green, with the 12th green visible in the valley beyond.


Somerset Hills is a must play for any fan of Tillinghast in particular or of golden age golf architechture in general.  I cannot recommend it highly enough.  I hope you enjoyed the tour.
« Last Edit: November 24, 2014, 12:34:41 AM by Jon Cavalier »
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Joe Bausch

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Re: Autumn at Somerset Hills CC - Photo Tour
« Reply #1 on: October 27, 2014, 07:44:44 PM »
Enjoyed it very much. 

A grand slam on your part!
@jwbausch (for new photo albums)
The site for the Cobb's Creek project:
https://cobbscreek.org/
Nearly all Delaware Valley golf courses in photo albums: Bausch Collection

Matt Frey, PGA

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Re: Autumn at Somerset Hills CC - Photo Tour
« Reply #2 on: October 27, 2014, 07:49:02 PM »
Wonderful photos, Jon! I was fortunate enough to play Somerset Hills in 2008 on a Monday with a couple of club caddies. This was before Tom Doak started work on the course (I believe) and even then it was an amazing course...definitely among my favorites.
Matt Frey, PGA
@mfreypga  @mfreypga

Mark_F

Re: Autumn at Somerset Hills CC - Photo Tour
« Reply #3 on: October 27, 2014, 07:53:09 PM »
You take absolutely smashing photographs, Jon.

Steve Lapper

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Re: Autumn at Somerset Hills CC - Photo Tour
« Reply #4 on: October 27, 2014, 08:09:14 PM »
Jon,

   A beautiful photo tour of one of my all-time favorites. Your descriptions are spot on, save for one. The club's "overshadowing" by Winged Foot and Baltusrol is far from intentional. The membership knows exactly what they have: a gem, framed by it's playability and pleasure instead of excess difficulty and demand. Regardless that all were AWT creations, comparing SHCC to Balty, Winged Foot or Bethpage is purely apples-to-oranges.

  You were fortunate to see the course recently. Their talented and relatively new super, Ryan Tuxhorn came from Merion, and he combined with a refreshed and newly energetic club leadership to remove trees, open up areas and implement some of the long-standing recommendations from Renaissance GD. Sometimes referred to by a few around these parts as golf's ideal "shabby chic," it wasn't looking as great as it does now. It's now glorious and you picked the best time of year to see it. Congrats!!

  

PS.. I'd otherwise be jealous, but I've got a day over there tomorrow ;D ;D
« Last Edit: October 30, 2014, 02:24:28 PM by Steve Lapper »
The conventional view serves to protect us from the painful job of thinking."--John Kenneth Galbraith

Blake Conant

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Re: Autumn at Somerset Hills CC - Photo Tour
« Reply #5 on: October 27, 2014, 08:18:13 PM »
Such an awesome place.  Great photos, great camera, and thanks for sharing. 

Will Spivey

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Re: Autumn at Somerset Hills CC - Photo Tour
« Reply #6 on: October 27, 2014, 08:20:30 PM »
Jon,

Wonderful tour and FANTASTIC photos.  Can I ask how you such great color saturation yet still highlight the undulations of the course?  Are you using any software to get these results?

The course looks wonderful.  LOVE the Redan.

John Kirk

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Re: Autumn at Somerset Hills CC - Photo Tour
« Reply #7 on: October 27, 2014, 08:32:29 PM »
Jon,

Thanks for the photo tour.

This has to be the greatest set of pictures ever presented here.  What a beautiful golf course.

Jay Flemma

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Re: Autumn at Somerset Hills CC - Photo Tour
« Reply #8 on: October 27, 2014, 09:03:08 PM »
Phenomenal tour.  Truly astounding job by the course - they just keep getting better and better!

My friend got an ace at #2.  She duffed a 9-wood that burned worms all the way before going pin-seeking by mistake.  Strange game, isn't it? ;D ;D ;D
Mackenzie, MacRayBanks, Maxwell, Doak, Dye, Strantz. @JayGolfUSA, GNN Radio Host of Jay's Plays www.cybergolf.com/writerscorner

JLahrman

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Re: Autumn at Somerset Hills CC - Photo Tour
« Reply #9 on: October 27, 2014, 09:13:26 PM »
Another fantastic tour. Rough month for you Jon.

George Blunt

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Re: Autumn at Somerset Hills CC - Photo Tour
« Reply #10 on: October 27, 2014, 09:22:08 PM »
Jon,
Thanks so much for posting these photos.  I am also playing tomorrow and you have whet my appetite. I can't wait. 

(Yes, I know I will have to carry you all day Steve, I am used to it😝😝)

Best regards,
George

Jon Cavalier

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Re: Autumn at Somerset Hills CC - Photo Tour
« Reply #11 on: October 27, 2014, 09:33:30 PM »
Jon,
Thanks so much for posting these photos.  I am also playing tomorrow and you have whet my appetite. I can't wait. 

(Yes, I know I will have to carry you all day Steve, I am used to it😝😝)

Best regards,
George

Steve and George:

Have a great day tomorrow. The course is in perfect shape, and you should have gorgeous weather. Enjoy.
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Jon Cavalier

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Re: Autumn at Somerset Hills CC - Photo Tour
« Reply #12 on: October 27, 2014, 09:52:30 PM »
Rough month for you Jon.

That's fair.
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Steve Lapper

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Re: Autumn at Somerset Hills CC - Photo Tour
« Reply #13 on: October 27, 2014, 09:58:19 PM »
Jon,

   Do you want to take George's place?  Having been there just last week and knowing how good a shape it's in, it's a waste on George  ::) and his long-lost Sandbelt game. Just let me know. I can make that happen, really!
The conventional view serves to protect us from the painful job of thinking."--John Kenneth Galbraith

Patrick Kiser

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Re: Autumn at Somerset Hills CC - Photo Tour
« Reply #14 on: October 27, 2014, 10:06:37 PM »
Very nice tour indeed.

I'm curious if anyone knows if the course is pretty much original and intact or if it's been modified over the years.
“One natural hazard, however, which is more
or less of a nuisance, is water. Water hazards
absolutely prohibit the recovery shot, perhaps
the best shot in the game.” —William Flynn, golf
course architect

Jon Cavalier

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Re: Autumn at Somerset Hills CC - Photo Tour
« Reply #15 on: October 27, 2014, 10:07:42 PM »
Very nice tour indeed.

I'm curious if anyone knows if the course is pretty much original and intact or if it's been modified over the years.

There are people here who can speak to this better than I can, but my understanding is that Somerset Hills is almost entirely original with the exception of the 10th green.
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Patrick_Mucci

Re: Autumn at Somerset Hills CC - Photo Tour
« Reply #16 on: October 27, 2014, 10:29:12 PM »
Very nice tour indeed.

I'm curious if anyone knows if the course is pretty much original and intact or if it's been modified over the years.

PATRICK,

# 10 has been altered.

The green was moved back 40 - 60 or so yards

Rumor has it that more changes might be in store for # 10.

And, the natural spring that golfers could drink from as they walked from the 12th tee to the 12th green is no longer functional.

Somerset Hills is VASTLY improved over the last five (5) years and a real treat to play.
It's challenging yet fun to play





Brian Potash

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Re: Autumn at Somerset Hills CC - Photo Tour
« Reply #17 on: October 27, 2014, 10:53:01 PM »
Jon,

That photo tour was so good it was almost painful to go through.

Amazing job.  I think I concur with Mr. Kirk in saying it's the best I've seen on our site.

Brian

Scott McWethy

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Re: Autumn at Somerset Hills CC - Photo Tour
« Reply #18 on: October 27, 2014, 10:53:25 PM »
Absolutely spectacular Jon.  Thanks again for another fantastic thread!

Brian Finn

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Re: Autumn at Somerset Hills CC - Photo Tour
« Reply #19 on: October 27, 2014, 11:07:10 PM »
Jon,

That photo tour was so good it was almost painful to go through.

Amazing job.  I think I concur with Mr. Kirk in saying it's the best I've seen on our site.

Brian


Having spent the day at Somerset Hills with Jon, and having seen his outstanding photography previously, I strongly encouraged him to do a photo tour.  We had an ideal day, but I am still amazed at the outcome.  He has a gift for finding great angles and lighting, and you barely notice him snapping photos over the course of the round.  We got around in just under 3 hours and somehow he managed to get these incredible photos (and many more). 

Between many rounds this year (including partnering at the 5th major) with burgeoning artist Josh Bills, and then five rounds with Jon from June-October, I've been exposed to some real artistic talent among gca members.  I'm thinking it would be pretty cool to commission Josh to paint one of Jon's photos and hang them side by side in my new home.  Not sure I can afford them, though.   :)

Jon Cavalier

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Re: Autumn at Somerset Hills CC - Photo Tour
« Reply #20 on: October 27, 2014, 11:22:18 PM »
Thanks, Brian, for your comments and for a wonderful day of golf at Somerset. I'm glad that my picture-taking didn't distract you from putting up an excellent number.

Now that Brian has chimed in, it gives me the opportunity to post this photo of him putting (for fun, not score) from the mounds on 5. Our caddy (who was excellent) is indicating the line some 20 feet right of the hole). Somehow, Brian hit this putt to about a foot. Amazing.

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Josh Bills

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Re: Autumn at Somerset Hills CC - Photo Tour
« Reply #21 on: October 27, 2014, 11:48:39 PM »
Jon love the photos, course looks amazing. Brian that Redan looks amazing, I'm sure we can work something out, problem for both of you this year is you have too many options to pick from.  Thank you both for sharing such a great course, look forward to many more.

Eric Hammerbacher

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Re: Autumn at Somerset Hills CC - Photo Tour
« Reply #22 on: October 28, 2014, 04:29:08 AM »
Great pictures as always Jon, Somerset Hills looks special.  I can appreciate the mounds on 5 better with the picture of Brian for scale.   
"All it takes, in truth, for a golfer to attain his happiness is a fence rail to throw his coat on, and a target somewhere over the rise." -John Updike 1994

Thomas Dai

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Re: Autumn at Somerset Hills CC - Photo Tour
« Reply #23 on: October 28, 2014, 04:44:48 AM »
Terrific. Well posted Jon. Some epic photos. Many lovely green complexes with the 2nd and 5th being pretty eye-catching.

A tree observation - fabulous trees and colours, but apart perhaps from a couple of holes on the back-9 no apparent tree-lined avenue style holes (or any sense of tree-overcrowding). Would it be fair to say that this course is an example of where trees enhance rather than diminish an inland course?

atb

Greg Gilson

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Re: Autumn at Somerset Hills CC - Photo Tour
« Reply #24 on: October 28, 2014, 05:18:01 AM »
Jon, thanks again for another great tour.

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