Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Penalized in the Poconos

The Pocono Mountains are located in northeast Pennsylvania, about an hour and a half from New York City.

Around here the name Poconos is generally synonymous with alpine fun and good times, located within a sensible distance of the big cities. As a non-native New Yorker I had always assumed that it was a place to be. A destination if you will.

But if this latest round is any indication, it is not exactly that. From what I saw it is a rather utilitarian getaway, low on the rural charm. Kind of a bargain-bin option for nearby city people in need of retreat. It's no Vermont, put it that way.

From my online searching, Fernwood seemed like a nice enough place to play. The yardage was suitable for both myself and Ms. Legit. A glance at some customer reviews suggested good conditions and pace of play.

Pulling into the lot I became a little concerned--the huge power lines and corrugated-steel clubhouse were a bit worrisome.

The first three holes were nice enough--spacious and competently laid out. I played them in even par and then looked forward to perhaps another solid round of road-golf.

Horseback trail-riding alongside a golf course is one of the many activities available here in the Poconos.

This place feels like summer camp. A wooded path leads to the fourth hole, and unbeknownst to us at the time, a world of hurt. It turns out that the first three holes are quite uncharacteristic of the rest of the course.

#4 is a very dicey par 3 built sidelong on a rather severe slope. I hit a decent ball but it had some hook. It touched down on the left fringe, but then bounced off the mountainside into oblivion and thus began our nightmare.

This was the view from the next tee. The narrowness is a big problem, and then it's compounded by a excruciating lack of a discernible landing area. I stood over the ball feeling extremely unsettled, and followed it up with one of the worst swings ever, smother-hooking a 4-iron hard left into that big tree.

The next hole was a 600 yard par 5. Normally I can dig the challenge of a colossal par 5, but this one was narrow to the point of being painful.

The rest of the round was a blur of unbelievably tight tee shots...

Ridiculously situated greens.

Hidden hazards.

Un-scenic drives through lodging units.

More tight, claustrophobic tee shots.

After seventeen holes of chunking up turf and losing balls, you are usually relieved to reach the final tee. But here at Fernwood, the view that greets you on the 18th is just as mind-numbing and visually nightmarish as the stupid fifth hole. I tried to ignore all the man-made artifices staring me in the face; then I flailed a 3-wood and hit a huge block straight over the rooftops.

I don't keep hard records on this sort of thing but eight penalty strokes is probably a personal record. It was a wild, hazardous ride. There was one hole where I hit four provisional shots before finding my original ball--that's probably a first too. Scorewise it was a disaster. Ever since the Brooklyn Open my game is stuck in recreational-hack mode (too hot, too crowded, can't be bothered etc.) and today in this mountainside house of horrors, I got splayed open. Some 'resort' this is.

On the plus side I putted well yet again, and I made two really nice sand shots. Onward and upward.

When I returned the cart it was lucky that no staff asked me how the round went. Because at that point I was ready to declare to anyone who cared to know, that this was nothing short of the worst course I have ever played--no offense of course. I wasn't mad. It's just an insanely designed course. It feels like an 18-hole course that was cheaply jammed into a space designated for nine holes.

Let's look at some aerial views of some of the tee shots we faced today.

These are some extremely narrow widths. Am I right or am I wrong here.

The tightest hole in TV-golf that I can think of is the 18th at Augusta.

Even that's a little more generous than what Ms. L and I faced all day. These kind of ultra-demanding shots might make sense on that course. Here, they don't. Not sure if I'll even be back to the Poconos, for golf or otherwise. What have they got here that you can't get in the mountains of Jersey, about 45 minutes closer? Legal fireworks, I guess.


  1. A wee bit cranky Legit? If ever a golf course got into your head, this looks to be the one. Hit straight shots and width of the hole is irrelevant, right??! And to write off the Poconos because you had a bad day...didn't you find one of those lovely Poconos resorts chockablock full of heart shaped tubs filled with bubble bath snf you and Ms. Legit could soak away your troubles?

    ate to see what you have to say about Cape Cod after playing a couple of the narrow, pine and oak tree lined fairways here..I do agree, that power lines can be visually disrupting, but not every course can be as visually arresting as Dyker (Verrazano Narrows Bridge looming behind the course) or some other picturesque locale...

    1. You better believe I will write off an entire mountain region based on a bad 18 holes of golf. The width of the hole is absolutely relevant to the gameplay. There is such a thing as too narrow, and whoever put together this course nailed it right on the f'ing head. Whole thing ought to be bulldozed and repurposed. No offense of course.

  2. Those photos sure make the routing look narrow. I wonder if, over time, the trees have grown and made both the visual and actual fairway & rough too narrow. Having spent a day up on our 2nd story roof chopping back branches of trees overgrowing the house, I can attest to the fact that mature trees expand rather quickly. Given 20 years of growth, a 30 yard path can become a 20 yard chute.

    1. Millions of golf courses deal with tree growth just fine. This place flat out sucks. It's a ghost town and probably not long for this world. The 17th green is flanked by lodging and some people in a balcony saw us and were like "Hey look, people are playing golf!" I.e. the revenue from greens fees is not exactly streaming in here. You know how when you're hitting an iron or wood off the tee, and you look around the tee-box for a broken tee to use, and usually you can find one? Not here. I think I saw two broken tees all day.

  3. Wow, the Poconos, the honeymoon destination of the 70's. It's pretty just a cheap, dated tourist trap for the most part, with some nicer places hidden away.

    My only question is, how'd you get the yardages, etc on that map? Is there a program I'm missing out on?

    1. I like Google Earth because it's a golf app and it doesn't even know it.

  4. The Poconos or: How I Learned to Lose My Balls and Love Tight Holes

    1. Young man, would you be interested in an internship?


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