There are many things that bug Tony Pioppi. Near the top of the list is the way golfers treat nine-hole courses.
“You know, golfers will drive past a great nine-hole course to play a mediocre 18-hole course,” says the former GolfWeek writer and golf historian. “That’s a shame. They’re called little courses. But some aren’t little at all. Some are 3500 yards. Birchwood is a perfect example, that is hardly a little course!”
Pioppi (below left) feels so strongly about nine-holers, of which Connecticut has dozens, that he’s written two books about them. The latest is The Finest Nines, which ranks the 25 best nine-hole courses in the country. Three of them are here in the state: Birchwood Country Club in Westport, Norfolk Country Club, and the Hotchkiss School Golf Course in Salisbury.
Apply Pioppi’s passion about course architecture to the Rules of Golf and you get Howard Meditz’s new book, How to Get a Grip on the 2019 Rules of Golf. Meditz (below right), a rules official with the Metropolitan Golf Association and a CSGA contributor, who has just updated his popular How to Love the Rules of Golf.
Both are worth your time.
Pioppi, who lives in Middletown when he isn’t checking out courses or working on one, is an active debater and poster on social media about all things golf. He boasts about 2300 followers on Twitter and his Turfnet Renovation Report podcast, is popular with architects, superintendents and other course-design-and-care aficionados. One of those is web.com player Zac Blair, who wrote the book’s foreward. The book is now in its second printing.
Suffice it to say, Pioppi thinks nine-hole layouts get short shrift. In 2006 he authored To the Nines because, he said, no one else had. Now he presents his list of the best in the country and urges you to sample the ones here in the state:
Birchwood, designed by Connecticut native Orrin Smith (who also designed Longshore Golf Club, site of this year’s Connecticut Super Senior Championship), is one of three Connecticut nine-holers included on his list of 25 Finest Nines. It has, says Pioppi, an almost-perfect par 3-4-5 finish. Here’s Pioppi’s description of the par-3 seventh, almost 200 yards in length: “The green is shaped like a guitar pick, narrower end nearest the tee, and protected short right and left by a pair of deep bunkers.” He mentions that two-time British Amateur Champion Dick Siderowf, a Connecticut Golf Hall of Fame member, played out of Birchwood at the peak of his career.
The ringer on Pioppi’s list is the Hotchkiss School Golf Course (above right), a somewhat obscure Seth Raynor design that contains replicas of some of Raynor’s most famous holes. Writes Pioppi: “Unknown to many is the fact that while Yale was being built another Raynor course in Connecticut was under construction, this one a nine-hole layout in the far northwest corner of the state, and it too was created for an institution of learning.” Granted Pioppi may be slightly biased here: He’s the president of the Seth Raynor society. He thinks the green of the second hole at Hotchkiss is among Raynor’s finest ever.
Norfolk Country Club was designed by A.W. Tillinghast at the height of his powers, after he had done courses at Winged Foot, Baltusrol, and Baltimore’s Five Farms. His Norfolk work was forgotten, Pioppi writes, until a club member wrote the club’s history in 2012. Pioppi says finding great nine-hole courses in Connecticut wasn’t difficult. These courses often gave New England resorts and weekend getaways an activity to add to swimming, sailing and tennis that de rigieur. Some provided the same function at schools such as Taft and Hotchkiss. The original Taft nine by Raynor evolved into today’s Watertown Golf Club, annual site of the Connecticut Junior Amateur.
Pioppi’s devotion to course architecture is equaled by Meditz’s affection for the Rules of Golf, which you’ll never catch him not capitalizing.
“I really do love the Rules of Golf,” says the author of a CSGA column on the subject and a member of the Metropolitan Golf Association’s Rules and Competitions Committee. “Mostly because, just like the game itself, they’re such a fascinating challenge. The Rules have been studied, debated and refined over and over again since March 7th, 1744. That’s 275 years of hard work. And for lots of good reasons, one of which you might encounter this weekend when you’re playing with your friends, we’re not done yet. How can you not love that?”
Meditz’s approach to the rules is conversational and easy to absorb. Here’s how he introduces the new nomenclature surrounding penalty areas:
“Good news, everyone playing by the rules from 2019 on will never again end up with their ball in a hazard….”
If you were as baffled by the rules changes as some of the PGA Tour pros have proven to be, or just want to understand them better, Meditz’s book is just the ticket.
Both books are available on Amazon in both hardback and Kindle versions.