For the past several years, I have been fortunate to play dozens of new-to-me (and sometimes new-to-the-world) golf courses each year, often in conjunction with trips to destinations around the country and wider world. Last year, I played 72 courses for the first time. This year, that number is 11, mostly pre-pandemic. I’ve always felt very fortunate to be able to travel and play golf as part of my livelihood. That feeling has never been stronger than over the last eight months, and it’s further increased my appreciation for the excitement of seeing a new course, especially close to home.
Take Gator Trace Country Club in Fort Pierce, Fla., for example. I stopped by on a whim last Friday after my car service appointment finished early. I was aware of the course but when asking around about it in the past, I never got the impression it was of much interest. Nevertheless, the excitement at the prospect of seeing a fresh set of golf holes exceeded any preconceived notions. I happily paid the $30 green fee.
My curiosity was rewarded. Gator Trace is not a world-beater; it was in somewhat scruffy shape and the layout is short and somewhat awkward, padded out to just over 6,000 yards to market itself as a “championship course” when the property would have been more suited to a 5,000-yard executive layout. But I was charmed by the greens Arthur Hills laid down there in 1985. Small surfaces, abrupt falloffs and rolled edges meant approach shots favoring a particular side of the fairway had a leg up on others. The 7th green, which sloughs off shots along the left edge, dazzled me with a series of waves along the right side. Then and there I knew I was getting my money’s worth.