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Charlie Ray

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20 years on GolfClubAtlas: Thank you
« on: May 26, 2022, 12:58:15 PM »
Today is a special day for me.  10 years ago, I made vows to embrace an odd way of life that has resulted in me becoming happy and fulfilled beyond what I previously imagined possible.  Therefore, I am spending the day crafting correspondence to all those who assisted me.  GolfClubAtlas has given me opportunities to ponder non-essential things thus providing a healthy and enjoyable escape.  Thank you to all those who offer their insights, stories, and witnesses to make this website special.  As the younger people remind me: ‘Content is King.’  A particular aspect I value about GCA is the etiquette that is expressed in the sharing of viewpoints.  Courtesy is abundant throughout this forum, and I appreciate that quality greatly.   
In the Spring of 2003, I was an elementary school teacher and joined Rapides Golf and Country Club in Central Louisiana.  I began playing the game in college and it soon became a favorite pastime.  Although I enjoyed competitions, practicing, and the comradery, I first and foremost enjoyed the land and the course.  Questions such as: ‘what makes a good golf hole?’  ‘why do I enjoy playing the back 9 more than the front 9?’  ‘Would removing the front bunker on #2 make for a better hole?’  lead me to GolfClubAtlas.com.  The pictures and commentary found in the ‘courses by country’ became my gateway to consuming more and more about architects, the great courses, and the ‘strategy’ of Golf Architecture. 
During these years three courses were built in my general vicinity:  Links on the Bayou (Mike Young), Tamahka Trails (Steve Smyers), and Oakwing Golf Club (Jim Lipe).  I would do a bit of reconnaissance (trespassing) to identify the routing, and then rewalk the land to find alternate ‘better’ routings.  (I continue to do this today via Google Maps/Earth.) 
 
Eventually I found myself in Columbus, OH.  A student again.  The first place I explored wasn’t Scioto, but the OSU library (I did not attend OSU, truly a grace from God)… first and last trip to that campus… to read this mysterious tome quoted ad nauseum on GCA:  Doak’s Confidential Guide.  I spent six years in Columbus and played 41 area courses.  My last month I finally found my way on Scioto, Muirfield Village, and The Golf club.  After 10 years of learning about Golf Architecture I was finally about to play some of the courses I had read about.  This was going to be the start of a quest to play the top 100.  However, reality was disappointing.  I couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about.  These were the 3 best courses I had ever played, but they weren’t that much better than the $25 municipal courses down the street. 
(I had a similar experience in the summer of 2003 in Kauai.  I rented a house 2 miles north of Wailua Golf Course (with ‘local rates’ I paid $6 a round), and spent >$125 on Prince Crse; Poipu Bay, and Kauai Lagoons and preferred the municipal track.) 
Was all this Golf Course Architecture an ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’ thing?  I had played the top-rated public course in 7 states (Louisiana, Hawaii, Ohio, Tennessee, Alabama, Indiana, and Texas) and found that they did not provide much joy.  I had a single-digit handicap, devoured literature on the subject, planned my vacations around courses, but never came away satisfied.  Until December 2018.
I found myself on the Oregon Coast.  It was the tee shot of #3 at Bandon Preserve.  My three playing companions (strangers I met on the First tee) and myself found ourselves giggling as we watched our balls kick off slopes, roll closer (or farther) to the hole.  I hit a 6-iron punch hook on #5 (130 yards) that leaped and galloped with the land and finished feet from the hole.  The ‘other’ courses were great too, but not as concentrated as the Preserve. 
(For the last 10 years I have played the majority of my rounds with 7 or 8 clubs; usually with a 5 iron as my longest club and playing from 5000 yard tees because I don’t (and still don’t) find much pleasure hitting a driver)
 
The greatest dichotomy with my vocation/profession is that people don’t remember what you told them, they remember how you made them feel.  I wish this wasn’t true.  Golf is a game, a challenging one, but nevertheless a game.  It should be fun, and this is my viewpoint of Golf Architecture.  I enjoy banging balls on the range and chipping on the practice green.  I enjoy that golf takes half a day to play (I do not enjoy rounds over 3:15), but there is nothing like a ball bounding along fast and firm land.  Falling in love is the greatest thing a human being can achieve (the most fun too!), and when we do so we aren’t in control.  I can reasonably control my ball through the air, the distance it flies, the trajectory, the shot shape,  but once it hits the ground I loose control.  In my opinion that is what makes golf fun.  The semblance of control, but in reality not so much. 
Therefore, the greatest variable in whether I enjoy a round, or course, is the ground.  I grew up in the swamp.  The majority of the year the ground is soft underfoot.  I played the great courses of Columbus, OH in early May:  soggy.  Wailua is firm and fast; those other course in Kauai: not so much.  All this is to say that I find the determinate of golf architecture is overly weighted on the presentation of the course.  My father identifies a good course based on how green it is and how smooth the putting surfaces are; and unfortunately, courses present themselves to meet expectations of those who foot the bill.  But this neuters the architecture in my opinion. 
Before the pandemic, I searched for a club that would have me as a National Member.  I had hoped to make a couple of long visits each year and enjoy nothing more than golf and the other members.  I haven’t found one.  But over the past 2 years I have built my own course:  Gaspergoo Golf and Fish Club.  A 3-hole reversable course built on firm sand!  Designing the routing, holes, hazards has been very fulfilling.  The course sits on 1.5 acres of lakeside land inside the Red River Levee system (the longest hole is 114 yards)  I mention this because I don’t think I would have ever done so without discovering GCA.  So, thank you to all.
Lastly, as primarily a lurker (this is my 58th post, and first time starting a thread).  I still haven’t figured out how yal manage to play so many courses, but thanks to all who share their thoughts, ideas, and opinions.  I will be traveling to Chicago and Wisconsin the first two weeks in August to marry a wonderful couple, if you are interested in a game let me know.  (If you read this to be a thinly veiled attempt at access, I apologize.  Once again my intention is to say ‘thank you,’ to GolfClubAtlas) 
Charlie
« Last Edit: May 26, 2022, 01:07:10 PM by Charlie Ray »

John Kavanaugh

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Re: 20 years on GolfClubAtlas: Thank you
« Reply #1 on: May 26, 2022, 01:09:10 PM »
A soulmate. Continued success in your travels!!!

Ira Fishman

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Re: 20 years on GolfClubAtlas: Thank you
« Reply #2 on: May 26, 2022, 01:36:42 PM »
Charlie,


My wife and I have the good fortune to play many great or near-great courses. We have never had more fun than playing Bandon Preserve.


Enjoy your new course.


Ira

archie_struthers

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Re: 20 years on GolfClubAtlas: Thank you
« Reply #3 on: May 26, 2022, 09:20:10 PM »
 8)




good stuff ...thanks to you for sharing

Bill Buthorn

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Re: 20 years on GolfClubAtlas: Thank you
« Reply #4 on: May 26, 2022, 10:07:08 PM »
One of my top five favorite posts ever.  Like you, I rarely post.  I read almost daily.  I am a golf junkie.  I echo many of your feelings.  Take care.  Kindred spirits.

PPallotta

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Re: 20 years on GolfClubAtlas: Thank you
« Reply #5 on: May 26, 2022, 10:51:14 PM »
And my thanks to you, Charlie -- your happiness, fulfilment, gratitude and joy infuses everything you wrote there...it made me feel better and more whole just reading it
Best to you
Peter



mike_beene

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Re: 20 years on GolfClubAtlas: Thank you
« Reply #6 on: May 26, 2022, 11:50:25 PM »
Please post more often. Your post leaves me with the pictures in my mind that can only be created by someone who not only knows what he is talking about, but understands it so deeply that a simple description captures the thought and feeling.

James Bennett

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Re: 20 years on GolfClubAtlas: Thank you
« Reply #7 on: May 27, 2022, 03:06:36 AM »
Charlie


your post regarding architecture quality touches some key issues.
A course that has:
- sandy soil
- undulations and some elevation change
- a maritime or Mediterranean climate
- is not inundated with a local forest
has many natural advantages which enable better architecture over a course that has less of these advantadges.


Of course, over-watering, poor leadership, poor agronomy and poor design can all reduce the quality despite what  the natural advantages allow.


A good course on clay, or in tropical climates, or on flat land needs to be appreciated for what has been achieved despite the disadvantages .  A great course will enhance the natural advantages with good agronomy, mnhagement of trees and grasses, and great architecture.
Bob; its impossible to explain some of the clutter that gets recalled from the attic between my ears. .  (SL Solow)

Tommy Williamsen

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Re: 20 years on GolfClubAtlas: Thank you
« Reply #8 on: May 27, 2022, 10:36:02 AM »
Hi Charlie, I assume you are a clergyman. It’s nice to know I’m not alone. I do have some questions though. Having played  the three Ohio courses you mentioned, I find it difficult to understand why you don’t think they are superior to the muni down the road. Those three are very different from one another but each is exceptional in its own right. I understand you liking firm, fast, and undulating ground. Most of us do, but that doesn’t mean parkland courses are inferior to them. They are just different. One of the things I like the most about the game is the varied terrain and design.
« Last Edit: May 27, 2022, 11:15:14 AM by Tommy Williamsen »
Tom Williamsen
Where there is no love, put love; there you will find love.
St. John of the Cross

Tim_Cronin

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Re: 20 years on GolfClubAtlas: Thank you
« Reply #9 on: May 27, 2022, 11:07:57 AM »
Charlie, this was a brilliant essay. Many thanks for sharing it with us.
The website: www.illinoisgolfer.net
On Twitter: @illinoisgolfer

Charlie Ray

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Re: 20 years on GolfClubAtlas: Thank you
« Reply #10 on: May 27, 2022, 12:02:04 PM »
Tommy, yes I am a clergyman of the Roman variety.  And about variety:  it is a good thing in the universal sense, but in the particular (individual) it is a lesser good.  For example, growing up we ate 'Cajun/Louisiana' cuisine the majority of time.  Then you move away from your family of origin and experience 'new' cuisines.  Some of it you enjoy, others not so much.  Having the option (variety) is great, but when you become more aware of your individual preferences variety losses some of the value to the individual.  I consumed Parkland style golf exclusively until a few years ago, and although Scioto, The Golf Club, M.V., do that style better than Raymond Memorial or Champions (the munis in Columbus) they still are the same flavor (aerial attack versus ground game option). 


Perhaps I have never been exposed to parkland golf that allows approach shots to be played on the ground?  I believe if I played those 'big 3' in firm conditions I would have been able to see a greater dispersion of quality between the architecture they possess and that of the 'lesser' munis.  Soggy ground compacts the separation between great, good, average, and poor.


I often ponder: does the superintendent (along with the soil and weather) have more effect on my enjoyment of a course than the architect?   My experiment with my own little golf course has taught me that the design and the way I prepare the course (ie Mow the Grass) both contribute greatly to my enjoyment.  (so its a Both/And answer... which is very 'Roman' if I may declare). 


Thanks for the kind words

Greg Hohman

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Re: 20 years on GolfClubAtlas: Thank you
« Reply #11 on: May 27, 2022, 12:53:13 PM »
Charlie,


Any chance of adding a second thread to your resume, the story of Gaspergoo Golf and Fish Club?


greg
newmonumentsgc.com

Charlie Ray

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Re: 20 years on GolfClubAtlas: Thank you
« Reply #12 on: May 27, 2022, 01:30:50 PM »
Since I post once every 8 years, look for Gaspergoo Golf and Fish Club course tour in 2030.  I acquired the property in 2009.  I mowed a 200 yard by 50 yard area and have hit thousands of balls on this 'range.'  Christmas of 2020 my father gifted me with 3 flagsticks.  Over 18 months they moved around often, exploring 'routings.'  They haven't moved in nearly a year and I have begun to experiment with different grasses for the greens.   I dug the first bunker last Monday.  #2 Green is rolling at around 7; others much slower.  Scorecards, logo, and other novelties have been ordered. (October through February have yielded the best conditions:  Fast and Firm!)  It takes a single about 15 minutes to play one loop (#1-6).  I typically play 18 holes in the morning, fish and read throughout the day, and 36 in the evening.   This is my 'get-a-way' place, I go on my day off.  I bought this property because it is 10 minutes from the best course in Louisiana in my opinion.  I haven't played that course in 2 years because I have more fun on mine. You don't need much land to build a cool golf course!   

Mike Sweeney

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Re: 20 years on GolfClubAtlas: Thank you
« Reply #13 on: May 27, 2022, 06:51:33 PM »
You don't need much land to build a cool golf course!   


Fun thread from the "old days" - https://www.golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/topic,37529.msg771775.html
"We need to allow people to make decisions for themselves and their local communities and families. Trying to tie everything into one package simply does not work." 5/11/21

archie_struthers

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Re: 20 years on GolfClubAtlas: Thank you
« Reply #14 on: May 27, 2022, 07:20:02 PM »
 ;D


Good stuff , Michael 


TEP was so much fun and Mucci    haha

Ryan Hillenbrand

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Re: 20 years on GolfClubAtlas: Thank you
« Reply #15 on: May 31, 2022, 04:55:10 PM »
Charlie,


This is great reminder for me to express gratitude for what Ran has done for the education of golf architecture. There is now so much good golf course content on social media platforms that I stopped my daily checking of the GCA discussion group for a while. And while a lot of it is good I find much of it is the humble brag, FOMO-causing content I tell my kids to stay away from. Lots of pretty pictures, but I never would have learned about what makes a course fun and interesting from these platforms, like I do from GCA.

Jason Topp

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Re: 20 years on GolfClubAtlas: Thank you
« Reply #16 on: May 31, 2022, 05:01:14 PM »
Charlie - thank you for sharing.  My first reaction was that you have been here a long time.  My second reaction was that I am not that far off. 

Steve Lang

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Re: 20 years on GolfClubAtlas: Thank you
« Reply #17 on: May 31, 2022, 08:56:28 PM »
You don't need much land to build a cool golf course!   

Fun thread from the "old days" - https://www.golfclubatlas.com/forum/index.php/topic,37529.msg771775.html


Mike, That was fun.. I remember those bright moments with TEP indeed, and now I have 10 acres at Blue Lake and Briggs Road just north of 612 in Kalkaska Co., MI to play with myself..., but there's trees to be brought down versus just pasture mowing patterns.  Didn't get to it last summer, but the jeep's clutch and 4wd are fixed and the chainsaw, chains, and winch are ready to go, hmmm... golf holes or shooting range or both??


Charlie thanks for the thread and I must ask, are you available for consulting services?
Inverness (Toledo, OH) cathedral clock inscription: "God measures men by what they are. Not what they in wealth possess.  That vibrant message chimes afar.
The voice of Inverness"

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