LOOPIN’ THE LOOP
Definitions: “loopin”: Caddying, i.e. carrying a golf bag with a shoulder loop or doing a loop; i.e. nine or eighteen holes; “The Loop”: The Great Loop or Circle, circumnavigation of the eastern half of the United States by boat. North from Florida up the East Coast via the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, up the Hudson River; across up-state New York via the Erie Canal, through the Great Lakes to Chicago; then down the Illinois/Mississippi, or Tennessee River/Tom Big-Bee Water Way to the Gulf of Mexico and across the Gulf to the West coast of Florida and back to where you started, “crossing your wake”.
When we originally planned on doing The Great Loop, I assumed I would have to give up golf for the year, not an easy decision for a golf nut. But after doing some research, it became obvious that we could incorporate golf into our Great Loop. We have always found in our travels that wandering around looking for golf courses and the people we met while playing, that golf was a good way to get to know the country.
Our Great Loop started in Ft Myers, Florida. Unfortunately we had to spend an extra 3 weeks in Ft Myers at the start of the trip waiting for the boat yard to finish the re-fit work on the Colorado Cowboy, but we got to play a lot of golf while waiting. I got to see more Florida golf courses than I have in the past and found it more varied and better overall than my earlier experiences. Some of the high points: Old Corkscrew in Bonita Springs: a high end, tough golf course with lots of sand traps, water and jungle. Shell Point is in a religious affiliated retirement resort, a great golf course but no beer! A surprise was Del Tura, a 27 hole executive course in a lower end modular home development in North Ft Myers. Lots of activity and challenging par 4s from the tips. My favorite: Ft Myers Country Club. An old Donald Ross designed course, recently renovated and now operated by the City of Ft Myers. Showed up as a single at dawn and played with the dew sweepers men’s club group several days.
Finally got started on our Great Loop in early March and headed south through Naples and Marc Island. Didn’t play any golf until we got to Ft Lauderdale. Sally left for a week to go to Louis’ wedding in Hong Kong so I was on my own to supervise some boat work that didn’t get done in Ft Myers. One week turned in to the better part of 5 weeks as we waited for parts and boatyards. All of Florida is booming, the boating business included. Very hard to get work done, everybody is overworked and can’t hire competent staff. Found a lot of good golf courses though. A lot of the big developments from the 60’s and on, built nice private golf courses as part of the development amenity package. Now people are not joining private clubs, probably due to the availability of high quality daily fee courses and world wide travel. They don’t stay in Southern Florida for six months like they used to so a lot of these great golf course have fallen on hard times. Clubhouse are a little shabby, course maintenance budgets have been cut, but the basic great golf courses are still there. Played several course I remember from the early years of televised golf, The Jackie Gleason at Inverrary, TPC Coral Springs and many others. Favorite: Jacaranda East and West.
Got headed North again around the first of May. We stayed at St Simons Island a few years ago and played those great courses and played Jekyll Island when we had the boat stored in Georgia summer of 2016. Unfortunately had to pass on Kiawah Island since it’s a walking only course and my knees have gotten worse. I don’t have much of a bucket list, but pulling my boat into the Harbor Town Marina at Hilton Head, tying up under the red and white lighthouse, and walking to the Harbor Town Links was at the top of the list. I have been watching that golf tournament on TV for many years and always dreamed of being there. We were and it was everything that I imagined. Next golf stop was Georgetown, SC, south end of Myrtle Beach and two great days at True Blue and Caledonia Golf & Fish Club. Much better that other courses we played in Myrtle Beach several years ago. Didn’t play any golf in North Carolina. Really enjoyed the old fishing towns long the Intracoastal waterway, but didn’t get any golf in until we got to Chesapeake Bay.
First golf stop in the Chesapeake was a road trip from Deale. Had the boat in a boatyard from some additional re-fit work and Sally went to London for a few days for Maria’s first mini-triathalon. I took the opportunity to take a road trip to the Shenandoah Valley and of course played some golf along the way. First stop was Lees Hill Golf Club. Course is in the area of several Civil War battles (Fredericksburg and Spotslvania). Remnants of the battles are preserved around the course. After a morning on the Blue Ridge Parkway, found an old funky course on the ridge above Afton: Swannanoa Golf & Country Club. Friendly old fashioned place, not very good condition, but a fun play.
Got the boat out of the boatyard and headed to the Eastern Shore, the undeveloped side of Chesapeake Bay. Stayed at St Michaels for a couple of days and played Hog Neck golf Course, a county run course near Easton.
One our best golfing experiences was at Queenstown Creek across the Bay from Annapolis. Their website said they had a dock you could use if playing golf. We tied up at the small dock, a golf cart appeared the next morning for the 5-600 yd. trip up the hill to the course. Two great courses. Most of the golf on the Delmar Peninsula is at the southern end near the ocean so didn’t play again until we got to Cape May, New Jersey. Two rounds at Cape May National GC. Not that great a course, but played the second day w/ a sportwriter from Philadelphia and got a write up in his column (he got a few facts wrong, but it’s the thought that counts!).
Golf provides memorable experiences: Dave Weinberg
If I had my druthers, I’d never play golf alone.
Whether I’ve known the person or people for 10 years or 10 minutes, it’s nice spending four — or in the case of crowded summer weekends, five hours with people from different walks of life.
Or riding carts.
Sometimes the round produces happy memories; sometimes sad ones.
I recently experienced both in the span of a few days.
The starter at Cape May Golf Club on Saturday paired me with John Savage, who was in town as part of an intriguing, exciting adventure he was experiencing with his wife, Sally.
His stop in Cape May was one leg of a year-long boat trip along what is known as “America’s Great Loop.” It’s a journey that takes people between Florida and Canada via the Atlantic Ocean, Intracoastal Waterways, Hudson River, Erie Canal, Great Lakes and various rivers. The weird part was that until John bought his vessel, a Great Harbour N37 trawler, about a year and a half ago, he had never been on a boat in his 66-year-old life.
John, a retired lawyer, grew up and still lives in Rifle, Colorado, a self-described “cowboy town” of about 9,000 residents located about 180 miles west of Denver.
“I still don’t know why we’re doing this,” he said. “It wasn’t a dream of mine or anything. And after we’re done, I’m gonna sell the boat. My only hobby is golf. Playing golf and watching golf.”
John and Sally cover about 50 miles at a time and routinely spend a few days at each stop. They usually stay on the boat, which he described as an RV on the water, but sometimes book a hotel because Sally gets seasick.
To John, the best part about the voyage to date is that he’s been able to play golf in every place. He docked the trawler at the marina in Hilton Head, South Carolina, a few weeks back, grabbed his clubs and ventured over to nearby Harbour Town Golf Links. He did the same thing a couple weeks ago in Annapolis, Maryland.
Upon arriving in Cape May last Thursday, he docked at Utsch’s Marina, took his wife to dinner at Tisha’s and played 18 at Cape May National on Friday morning. The plan was to set sail Saturday, but storms and strong winds prompted them to wait a day so that Sally didn’t lose her lunch. So they ordered takeout from the Lobster House on Friday night and John joined me for another 18 on Saturday.ID WEINBERG Staff Writer Jun 27, 2017
After Cape May it was on to the Big Apple. After two days from the New Jersey Intracoastal Waterway, we faced our first major test. Out into the North Atlantic! It was only 25 files from Manasquan to Sandy Hook and the ocean was flat calm. Planned to play Bethpage Black while in New York, but again found it was walking only and had to pass, maybe next year after knee surgery.
Took a break from golf for the next few weeks but got in a round at Schectady NY before crossing into Canada. Had a great time on the Trent-Severn Waterway across Ontario. There were some golf courses around but didn’t get to play until we got to Lake Simcoe on the western end. Another session in the boatyard (bow thruster ate a log in one of the locks) and Sally flew back to Portland for a 50 year reunion. I took the opportunity to play once in Toronto (the place is huge!), a couple of courses around Lake Simcoe. Drove north about 50 miles one day to the edge of the Canadian Shield and played Muskoka Lakes Resort GC. A real rock pile, hard to figure where they came up with enough dirt to build a golf course.
After leaving the Trent-Severn canals we entered Georgian Bay and then The North Channel. A few golf courses but didn’t play any. Kilarney had a golf course, but it closed a few years ago.
Crossed back into the US at Drummond Island and found a gem of a golf course, The Rock! Great course. Then on to Mackinaw City on Mackinac Straight (both spellings correct, both pronounced the same (makinah). Spent a day on Makinac Island (no autos, all transport by horse drawn carts). The big hotel has a golf course (The Jewell), nine holes next to the hotel and a back nine a couple of miles away. They use golf carts on the golf course, but to get to the back nine you have to take a horse carriage.
After Mackinac Island, we had to cross Lake Michigan to get to Green Bay and the Door Peninsula. First leg was a day to Beaver Island which was still along the shoreline and not too much open water. Once we got to Beaver Island the wind started to blow, delaying the 85 mile Lake Michigan crossing. Beaver Island is a small community off the cost of Michigan. Served by a daily ferry from Charlevois, but only accessible by air for several months when the lake freezes and there is a golf course! The course sent a car to pick us up and Sally and I played the 9 holes. A pretty rustic course, but enjoyable. I went back the next day (rode my bicycle w golf clubs on shoulder the 5 miles out to the course) and played 18 holes.
After sitting out the blow for a couple of days, we made the 85 mile crossing to Washington Island at the northern tip of the Door Peninsula. Then on down the Door to Sturgeon Bay and left the boat at Jim Schaus’ dock for a trip home for bow season.
After the break headed south along the western shore of Lake Michigan. First golf stop was Sheboygan and Kohler. Decided not to play Whistling Straights (walking only) but played The Irish Course (Hole in 1 on the 13th!)
and the next day the two Blackwolf Run courses. Knees stood up pretty well playing 36 holes so decided to try and play Erin Hills (2017 US Open) from Minneapolis. It’s a long course, 10 mile walk) and rolling terrain, but with a caddy and a couple of pain pills made it. Great experience.
After a few days in Chicago, we headed down the Illinois Waterway, the last leg of the Great Loop, only 1500 miles to Ft Myers. The inland rivers are dominated by commercial traffic and have big locks and lots of levees along the banks. Water levels vary by 20-30 feet (high in the spring and low in the fall). Mostly you are in a river valley with river valley 10-20 feet below the top of the bank and the banks covered with trees. Can’t see much from the rivers except for big industrial facilities (refineries, gravel pits, steel mills, and power plants). First major stop was Ottowa, IL at Heritage Harbor. Took a couple days break. Rode my bicycle to Davies Ridge GC. A local muni-track, but its golf! Next stop was Peoria, IL, home of Caterpiller. The Caterpiller museum is impressive and the golf was much more interesting that I expected. I assumed it was all flat, but we played two courses (Weaver Ridge and Lick Creek) both of which were hilly and great courses.
That was it for golf until we got down to Tennessee. It wroas a long trip down the Illinois, then a couple of hundred miles down the Mississippi to Cairo where the Ohio comes in. Headed up the Ohio and had to wait for water levels to drop so we could get through Lock 52. Once we got on the Tennessee River, the scenery improved. The Kentucky Lakes area is beautiful. We left the boat at Green Trutle Bay Marina and took a road trip to Nashville, Knoxville and up into Kentucky to visit relatives in Louisville, Cincinnati and Dayton Ohio. Golf at the Kentucky University Big Blue course near Lexington in the Kentucky Blue Grass country. Played with cousin Mark Leonhardt at Fuzzy Zellers Covered Bridge Course in Indiana across the river from Louisville and then tried to play Kenny Perry’s Country Creek GC at Franklin. Unfortunately it rained all night and continued that morning so we got only nine holes in, but a good experience.
No more golf until we got to the Gulf Coast. The 450 miles from Pickwick Lake to Mobile went on forever. Had a break Pickwick Lake where we hooked up with my old golf partner Wayne Perkins and toured the Shiloh Battlefield but no golf. Once we got to Mobile, we planned to cruise back west to New Orleans but the weather didn’t cooperate so we left the boat in Biloxi and drove to New Orleans. Played the TPC Louisiana course and met up with brother Dan, Suzanne, and her brother Chris for dinner. New Orleans was fun, saw some of the aftermath of Katrina (Katrina actually did more damage to the Gulf Coast east of New Orleans, it was the flooding and levee failures that did the damage in New Orleans). Once back in Biloxi, we stayed another day due to weather and played The Great Southern Golf Club in Gulfport. We like the old fashioned parkland courses.
Headed east along the Gulf Coast and getting anxious to complete the trip. Its been great, but time to go home! Stopped in Panama City to see some family and played two rounds at the Holiday Club. Good course, lots of retired military guys. The Gulf Coast is solid military installations from Mobile Bay through Pensacola to Panama City.
Early December made the overnight crossing from Apalachicola to Tarpon Springs. 185 miles, perfect weather. Got our dose of greek food in Tarpon Springs then on to Clearwater. Golf at several area courses and down to Sarasota the home of Ringling Bros. Circus. Gold at The Bobby Jones Club. Not sure why its associated w/ Bobby Jones, but an ok old fashioned track.Crossed our wake at Ft Myers Beach and tucked away in Salty Sam’s Marina until thekids and grandkids get here for Christmas. Nothing to do but get the stuff packed up to send home and play some golf around Ft Myers. Its been a great trip, wouldn’t do it again, but glad we did and very glad we decided to keep up