Congressional is a different kind of place than we normal folks see. I'm sure some of you have been their to watch a tournament or even to play, so you know it is a stunning place to see visually. The members I played with were great and gave me a tour of the clubhouse before we played and then again before dinner with my wife that evening. It is just gigantic, beautiful and filled with tradition. There are pictures of past presidents on the course who have been members, as well as countless photos of the many champions crowned at various tournaments through the years.
We played last Tuesday, and it was hot. My member friend and I arrived at lunch time and had lunch in the pub. As you may imagine, the pub is filled with rich, dark wood walls and a huge completely square bar in the middle of the room. There were many people getting ready to head out on the course, who had just come in, or were meeting over lunch to close a business deal. It was busy, but the service was excellent and the food was terrific.
We left the Pub and headed to the vast locker room. My friend's shoes were waiting for him in the shoe pick up area all cleaned and ready to go. I sat amid the dark wood lockers in the rambling locker room and put on my shoes. New FootJoys I might add!
We then headed out to the range to warm-up. I laughed when I poured my bag of range balls out. They all looked as though they had come right out of the box. Even with all the heat and use, the turf on the range was in great shape. There were target flags placed on landing areas that seemed to correspond to every club in my bag. It was just perfect!
Our tee time was for 2:30. Congressional sends four groups off every hour to limit traffic on the Blue Course, so it felt as thought we were alone on the course.
We were playing the gold tees, one set in front of the back tees. When you step on the tee at a course like this, your feet feel as thought they are on a very soft carpet. Even though the first hole is a 400 + yard par 4, you're used to seeing at least some club marks on the tee. Not so here. The tee box was perfect.
I got up to put my spike in the ground and my hands were shaking. Stupid, right? My friend saw this and said, "Tim, the cameras are all gone, and you're playing me, not Rory". I hit a good drive into the right side of the fairway our about 250 and promptly pushed my second shot into the rough behind some trees. Even though they cut the rough back following the open, it is still thick and tough to get out of. I had to chip out, dropped it within 10 feet and sunk my putt for an opening bogey.
I won't bore you with every hole detail. I do have to say, while most of the greens were in great shape following the Open, two of them were closed and a couple of the par threes were pretty beat up. Most however were in great shape and pretty quick. My putting average was definitely high. The traps were all beautiful, raked with edges trimmed to perfection. The sand was fluffy and required a full follow through to get out of. I had lots of practice.
I left the course with my ego intact, but no so my handicap. I finished up with an 89 On a course like Congressional, the smallest mistake can cost you dearly. I thought I was playing smart when each time I got into trouble, I made sure my first thought was to get the ball back in play. Even 10 feet into the second cut on this course is an adventure! As if I didn't appreciate the pros enough, an experience like this really shows you just how talented those guys are. The rough for the US Open was twice as deep as this past week and to hit the ball at the green out of the rough and get it to stop was almost impossible!
I know all of you love golf as much as I do and I was really blessed for this opportunity as well as other chances I've had to play great courses. My experience sparked a debate with my wife (a good natured one) about paying a premium to play a course like this. Everyone has different economic means, but if and when you have an opportunity to play one of the great courses, I feel you should try to do it. As much as I love to play my home course, and it is a very well groomed, tough golf course, there is something very special about a Congressional, Sawgrass, Pinehurst, etc...
Sorry to ramble on so long! I could have said so much more. If you think of anything I may have left out let me know.