As I trudged up to yet another set of gold tees, I knew what was ahead. An extra long golf hole with an extra long carry, this time over a sparkling blue lake and only a slight chance to avoid an ignominious final result.
I had been invited along with a few other media to play the Jack Nicklaus-designed Painted Valley Golf Course at the Promontory Club near Park City to promote the longest golf course in America on the longest day of the year (actually it was the third longest day, but close enough).
As I stared down at the 498-yard par-4 with a 220-yard carry over water, I wondered if I could do it one more time. Except for one hole, I had somehow managed to get all my drives over the ravines, dry creeks and lakes that seemed to be on every hole at the beautiful golf course a half hour east of Salt Lake.
Despite keeping my drives in play all day, as I stood on the tee, I needed a miracle to avoid something I hadn't done since I was a teenager, some 35 years earlier — shoot above 100 for 18 holes.
All I needed was a par, but those had been awfully hard to come by on a course that measured 8,357 yards from the very tips on this picture-perfect June day. For those who don't know just how long 8,357 yards is, it's 1,300 yards longer than Pebble Beach where the U.S. Open was played a week earlier and 900 yards longer than Augusta National.
We had already played a hole measuring 733 yards and others that were 685, 618 and 597. Those were the par-5s, which felt like par-6s if there was such a thing. Most of the par-4s were as long as the par-5s at most normal courses, measuring 551, 529, 509, 498, 490 and 480. One of the par-3s, a 254-yard, slightly-uphill hole into the wind, required a driver by everyone in our group. The other par-3s were 221, 216 and one fairly normal 182.
The official longest course in America is The International in Bolton, Mass., measuring 8,325 yards. The longest in the world is the Jade Dragon Club in Lijang, China (those Chinese have to beat us in everything, don't they?), at 8,450 yards. But on this day, Painted Valley was the longest in the U.S., thanks to the back tees being pushed back to their absolute limit and all of the holes placed within about four paces of the back of the large greens.
It seemed a little strange for a golf club to promote itself by pointing out that it is longer than any other course in the country. Other than real macho types, who wants to beat himself up playing such an extremely long course?
Obviously it had gotten a few of us media folks up to Promontory, but why would an average golfer want to play such a long course that measures just over 8,000 yards normally from the back tees? When I asked Director of Golf Tom Rogers, as nice a guy as you'll ever meet, he said it's a matter of choosing the correct tees for your game.
"It really is quite playable," Rogers said. "It's every bit as playable as the Dye Canyon course (the other Promontory course that opened in 2002). The fairways are wide, and the greens are large. Most people just have to hit it from the blue, white and red tees."
Good point. The blues are just over 7,000 yards, which isn't that long from 6,000 feet above sea level, the white tees are reasonable at 6,441 yards and the reds are just 5,332.
By the time I reached the final hole, I was already mentally drained as well as physically tired from climbing up to the gold tee boxes, and I didn't know if I had the strength or willpower to fly another lake with my tee shot. Somehow I made it over, but hit a poor hybrid from 240 yards out that left me with a short shot to the par-4 that was two yards short of 500 yards long. Remember, this was a par-4.
My chip landed within 20 feet, but my 99th stroke of the day missed by a couple of inches and I tapped in for No. 100. Considering I had just survived playing the longest course in America for a day, a longer course than nearly every golfer in the world, including most professionals, had ever played, it was the happiest 100 a golfer could every experience.
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