I enjoy playing in amateur golf tournaments when time allows, but I'll never make better competitive memories than when I was part of a team.
Any individual triumph will be hard-pressed to exceed the excitement I felt in 2005, when my high school squad won our conference tournament and New England prep tournament back-to-back. Or, in college, when I got to play in the 2008 NCAA Division III National Championship with my teammates.
Beyond college, though, the chances to replicate that camaraderie dry up almost completely.
Unless you're a member of one of about three dozen New Jersey country clubs.
Last week saw the conclusion of a multi-weekend, late-spring event called the Red Hoffman Cup Matches. Founded in 2005 and named for Arthur "Red" Hoffman, a legendary Garden State golf writer and sometime publicist for architect Robert Trent Jones, the Matches pit teams from 36 clubs - nine four-team groups - against one another. Four four-ball sides from each club face off against others in their group, World Cup-style, with the grittiest match-play competitors making it to the stroke-play Finals.
Prestigious clubs like Baltusrol Golf Club, Hollywood Golf Club and Plainfield Country Club all fielded teams this year, with this year's Matches' winners hailing from Arcola Country Club, a historic club in its own right and stroke-play co-host of this year's U.S. Amateur with nearby Ridgewood Country Club. This year's Finals were held at Hackensack Golf Club, a Charles Banks gem recently restored to glory by Rees Jones.
Venues are crucial to making any event special. Competing anywhere is fun, but teeing it up in competition at great courses elevates the occasion immeasurably.
And the more friends to share it with, the bigger the win.