The Road Trip in Review

Wow, what a trip! I can’t believe all the great weather I got and all the great courses I was able to play. I traveled through 12 different states and played golf in 9 of them. 7 of those were new to my total “list” of states played, bringing me up to 21 now. Getting close to the halfway point!

BY THE NUMBERS:

Miles Driven: 4146.8

Holes Played: 216

EXPENDITURES:

Golf: $926.15

Gas: $461.57

Food: $241.28

Lodging: $468.74

Misc: $232.05

Total: $2329.79

I was able to find plenty of cheap lodging (Motel 6) and get good gas mileage in my little car. Only played a few courses over $100 (Troon North, Paa-Ko Ridge and Sand Hollow), so I was pretty happy with the final costs given all I was able to accomplish on this trip.

THE SPECIAL BALL:

Of course, I brought my special “Bogeys Across America” ball with me and used it on one hole in each new state I played. When I played Georgia/South Carolina/Florida last winter, I had a good run going with three pars. That continued in Arizona and New Mexico, but I got a bogey in Texas to break the string. After that, I continued my bogey string through Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri until I got an easy par in Nebraska.

As usual, I played all short/easy par-3 holes so as not to lose the ball. However, when it came to using the ball in Colorado, none of the par-3’s at Lakota Canyon Ranch seemed quite “safe” enough (and I had forgotten to use it while at Fossil Trace the night before), so I settled on the par-4 10th hole at Lakota. I hit a nice drive, then put my second shot into a greenside pot bunker. I got out of the sand, but still wasn’t on the green yet. Then I chipped in for par to end the special ball’s run on a high note for this particular trip!

Now, I’d like to present some personal “awards” based on different categories…

“MOST SCENIC COURSE”

1. Seven Canyons • Sedona, AZ

2. Paa-Ko Ridge • Sandia Park, NM

3. Lakota Canyon Ranch • New Castle, CO

Seven Canyons in Sedona, AZ is easily one of the most scenic courses I’ve ever played. Just a beautiful setting for golf with the red rock mountains and canyons framing the course in every direction. Paa-Ko Ridge in New Mexico was also a very scenic mountain course with lots of trees and great elevation changes. Lakota Canyon Ranch is also in a scenic part of western Colorado and had the most dramatic elevation changes of anywhere on the trip, so it has many stunning views.

“MOST PLEASANT SURPRISE”

1. Sycamore Ridge • Spring Hill, KS

2. Wild Horse • Gothenburg, NE

3. Swope Memorial • Kansas City, MO

I had a feeling I’d like Sycamore Ridge from the pictures on their website, but you never know with those. It exceeded my expectations in every way with a diverse layout and two very different nines. I knew Wild Horse was supposed to be a great course, I just didn’t know how great until I was there. It could also when the award for “most pheasant surprise.” For an inexpensive muni course, Swope Memorial was a fun design and it was in really nice condition. Much better than I would have ever hoped!

“MOST DISAPPOINTING”

1. The Rawls Course at Texas Tech • Lubbock, TX

2. Troon North (Pinnacle) • Scottsdale, AZ

3. [TIE] Fossil Trace (front nine) • Golden, CO and Sand Hollow (Championship) (front nine) • Hurricane, UT

I hate to even put it in such a negative term like “disappointing” because I really liked every course I played on this trip. They were all great courses and I would gladly recommend any of them. But not all of them fully lived up to expectations, so hence this unpleasant award.

The Rawls Course was partly marred by the weather I got that morning (cold and very windy) and the fact that it was not in peak-season condition yet. Add to that the fact that true links style layouts are not always as photogenic and that I played horribly on this day. Put it all together and it’s a slight disappointment. Troon North is on here because it was the most expensive round I played ($140), but it’s the round/course that I remember least. It may just be because it was the first one I played, but I would categorize it as a very slight “disappointment.” Third place is a tie between the front nines at two otherwise awesome courses. The front nine at Fossil Trace isn’t nearly as interesting or inspiring as the course’s exceptional back nine. The same goes for Sand Hollow, where the most memorable holes are 11-15 and the rest of the course is a bit of a let-down by comparison.

“BEST CONDITIONED COURSE”

1. Wild Horse • Gothenburg, NE

2. Sand Hollow (Championship) • Hurricane, UT

3. Troon North (Pinnacle)

Wild Horse impressed me the moment I saw it from the main road. The fairways, rough and greens were in exceptional shape and a dream to play off of. The long native grasses were golden brown and provided a perfect backdrop. The bunkers were well-maintained, but held onto their “rugged” styling around the edges. Though Sand Hollow and Troon both made my “disappointment” list, that is not to say they weren’t in great shape. Both courses were well-manicured despite harsh environmental settings, so on that front they definitely lived up to the lofty expectations.

“MOST FUN LAYOUT”

1. Fossil Trace • Golden, CO

2. Swope Memorial • Kansas City, MO

3. Lakota Canyon Ranch • New Castle, CO

Even though the front nine is not in an ideal setting scenery-wise, it still has several very fun holes. Then the back is just a treat with some of the most enjoyable and interesting holes you’ll find anywhere. And when you have triceratops tracks fossilized into a wall next to a hole, you don’t get much more unique than that on a golf course! Swope Memorial is a short, but very fun layout with great views of Kansas City on a few holes. Lakota Canyon Ranch also offers wonderful views and incredible changes in elevation, along with a good variety of hole designs.

“MOST CHALLENGING COURSE”

1. Black Mesa • Espanola, NM

2. Paa-Ko Ridge • Sandia Park, NM

3. The Rawls Course at Texas Tech • Lubbock, TX

Even though I actually played well there, Black Mesa is a tough course. Lots of blind shots, uneven lies and nasty desert areas you do not want to be in. Rugged bunkers and deep rough are waiting to swallow up your ball. Greens are big and full of undulations. Definitely a tough course. And if you really want to put yourself to the test, play from the tips! I played from the blues and that was more than enough for me.

Paa-Ko Ridge has a lot of tricky angles, plenty of trees in play, hard-to-judge uphill approach shots and very tough greens to read. The Rawls Course is unique in that it’s links style layout does take some getting used to. But what makes this course challenging is primarily the bunkers. These things are nasty and penalizing. If you stay out of them and the long native grasses surrounding each hole, I think you can score well. However, if you find the bunkers like I did, it will be a long round.

“MY FAVORITE OVERALL COURSE”

1. Paa-Ko Ridge • Sandia Park, NM

2. Sycamore Ridge • Spring Hill, KS

3. Wild Horse • Gothenburg, NE

4. Seven Canyons • Sedona, AZ

5. Fossil Trace • Golden, CO

All things considered, Paa-Ko Ridge is the winner for me. I loved the layout, the scenery, and pretty much everything this course has to offer. Sycamore Ridge and Wild Horse both exceeded my expectations and I enjoyed both courses immensely. Seven Canyons definitely left an impression on me, as well, perhaps more because of the setting than the course itself. Whatever it was, I absolutely loved it out there. Fifth place was a hard choice (Black Mesa and Lakota Canyon Ranch were both in the running here), but I settled on Fossil Trace. Even though I was a little disappointed with the front nine scenery and the service had some gaps, the back nine is truly magnificent and made it well worth the trip. One of the best nine-hole stretches I’ve ever played!

So there you have it. I hope you enjoyed following along with me on my journey. Not sure when the next big Golf Nomad/Bogeys Across America trip will be, but I’ll be playing plenty of golf in the meantime, so there’s always something to write about here.

And finally, I had to add some new bag tags to my massive collection. Didn’t get one at every course because not every course had them available, but I did get plenty!

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