Typical of the wealth of top class golf courses in the New York Metroploitan area that if you were place Morris County next to any regional town in the British isles or Continental Europe and it would gain far reaching recognition. The course lies in the heart of Morris county, a suburb of New York home to the same clientel as places like Westchester or Grenwich but without all the glitz and attention. The club itself is very much in the "Country Club" mould, complete with Tennis courts and swimming pool. For a first time visitor this type of setup can be imposing when you go to meet someone at "the club", but in reality these are places where people go to relax and enjoy themselves and once you become accustomed to their way of life you quickly realise that they serve a wonderful purpose in American society.
The entrance road takes you up a hill alongside the driving range, where you hit invitingly downhill towards a Beautiful Oak forest. Morris county was the first course I played on American Soil and I the views people held on it were mixed, ranging from "tricked up" to "the best course you have never heard of". As always I approached the course with an open mind and as soon as I reached the First fairway I knew I wasnt going to be disappointed. Firm fast running greens, exciting undulating fairways, blind approaches, sharp doglegs, up hill, down hill, this place had everything. It reminded me of a course from back home coupled with American styled conditioning.
The first is a great little opener, a short drive and flick par 4, but the green sets the tone for the remainder of the day, for it is dangerously sloping from back to front and can offer some great hole locations which I am sure have tempted many a golfer to walk back and start again. The second continues in this trend a par five, with a both a blind drive and a blind second shot, to a green that repels only a sweetly struck shot. The third is one of my favourite types of Par 3, a mere 120 yards to a tiny green sloping from back to front on an elevated piece of ground surrounded by sand on all sides. The finish to the front nine 6-9 are all terrific holes and to play this stretch in even par the golfer needs to be on the top of his game.
The back nine eases the golfer back into himself and holes 10-14 offer some great birdie chances for the player, having survived the rigours of the front nine and also in preparation for what lies ahead. For the last 4 test examine the player in every aspect of his game ensuring only the mentally and physically strong will post a number at Morris Co. 15 is a bear of a par 3, nearly 240 yards, where the only saving grace is a beautiful Raynor version of the McDonalds punchbowl green, which gathers shots struck into the right area. 16 is an extremely tough par 4 where the challenge only begins from the fairway, another challenging green where only an exacting iron shot of the highest quality will hold the surface. 17 is a cracking short hole, where again the player can easily hit the green and walk off with a 4 not having done much wrong, such is the severity of the slopes if you fail to find the correct levels. If 15 was Raynor's version of a punchbowl, then 18 is his cape hole, the sensible drive is to the top of the hill before the large lake before playing into a large green beautifully framed by tall trees, my kind of finishing hole, the type where a player can make a score or easily run up a big number.
Morris County is a place I fell in love with from the very moment I set foot on the property. The atmosphere among the members of the club is teriffic, with a real appreciation of "golf" being properly harvested among the members. People say it is tricked up and I will admit the greens when they get their speed up can frustrate even the classiest putter, but here as at St Andrews they are the defence and Raynor's throwback to old school design here is refreshing and a privielege. And although it will forever be known as a hidden gem in people's eyes the members can rest quietly confident that they possess a course that can stand alongside any and hold its own
Date: January 05, 2011