After dreaming of playing Pine Valley for 15 years, I finally got the chance to play this great course in October 2019. A close friend extended me an invitation to join him to play Merion East Course and Pine Valley on consecutive days. He was invited to play these courses.
I was given less than a week’s notice to travel to Philadelphia. After re-arranging all my work schedule and client meetings, I was on my way to Philadelphia. We stayed in downtown Philadelphia. The following day our wonderful host played with us at Merion. The weather was glorious and I understood why Merion is ranked 12 in the World and has held numerous US Opens.
The following day, our Merion host and a Pine Valley member had arranged for us to play Pine Valley at 2.30 pm. We were due to meet for a leisurely lunch and use the range facilities before tee off. The weather forecast for the day was dreadful and there was a chance that our round was going to be cancelled. Our thoughtful host, changed our tee off time to 11am to try and beat the afternoon thunder storms. At 7.45 am on the morning we got a call from the host to say that there was still a risk of us not being able to finish the round with the newly arranged 11 am start. We were asked to make our way to Pine Valley for a 9 am tee off time. I had one of the quickest showers, no breakfast and had to get ready and leave our down town hotel within 20 minutes. The uber journey took us 50 minutes and we arrived at Pine Valley at 8.55m. Due to the expected bad weather in the afternoon the course was very busy that morning. The host and the course superintendent managed to squeeze us in for a 9.10 am tee off from the 10th,. No time to warm-up at the range nor hit a few practice putts. We changed into our golf shoes and were driven straight to the 10th tee. It certainly not the way I had planned to play Pine Valley.
The 10th is a short par three. Miraculously, my tee shot just rolled off the back of the green and I managed to two put from the fringe for a par. That kind of settled my nerves. But it never was easy from then on. I have played just over 30 of the World’s Top 100 courses. I would say, Pine Valley along with Beth Page Black must be the hardest courses I have played. The fairways were like carpets and the green complexes were magnificent and scary at the same time. The course is full of waste bunkers everywhere. As many writers have claimed before, Pine Valley does not have a weak hole.
The course is in the middle of a large expanse of wooded land. The whole place is tranquil and you rarely see two greens from any spot. One of the quirks of Pine Valley is that you never rake the bunkers. You just brush the sand with your feet once you have played your shot. Another point worth mentioning is the concept of caddies double bagging. This seems to be a common practice in the US whereby one caddy carries two bags. Though it seemed an odd way to play, it certainly was a unique experience.
My friend and I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Merion and Pine Valley members for hosting us. It truly was a memorable experience for us.
Date: November 07, 2019