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Pine Valley: The Words Number 1 Rated Course

To 70% of the golfing community, Pine Valley doesn't land with any of them, 'nah, haven't heard of it' is a familiar response. To the remaining 30% they are instantly drawn in when you mutter the words. Pine valley is situated in New Jersey, USA and repeatedly tops the US and worldwide golf rankings. I'm going to try an explain to you just what it's like to play there.

I can only compare the Pine Valley experience to what it must have been like for Charlie visiting Willy Wonka's chocolate factory. Sure, you can try approach the gates, but when you push that long wooden tee into the perfectly manicured tee box on #1, that's when the magnitude of where you are playing really hits home.

Let's start from the beginning. The alarm goes off....this will be the only day this year I wont tap the snooze button. I picked out my brand new outfit for the occasion. Similar to when your mum would look out your new school uniform for your first day back. On route to the course there are no sign posts or hints as to where the entrance is to Pine Valley. Simply meaning, if you don't know, you shouldn't be playing. When heading down the road to the entrance you pass an old water park that's seen better days and a sign that reads 'dead end'.... but for a small percentage of people driving that road, there is a through road.

When we arrived at the entrance we parked in the staff car park outside the gates until our member had arrived. If you look above the red car in the car park you will see a red and white railway barrier. It is through that barrier you pass to get into PV.

Pine Valley is considered to be a town of its own with such commodities as their own town hall and police station situated within its gated community. Below is a photograph of the first buildings you come across upon entering the grounds. I believe the building on the left is the town hall.

After breakfast at the clubhouse we headed out to the driving range where a lush teeing ground and unlimited ProV1 golfs balls await your questionable technique. There are two teeing grounds so that you never have to go through the hardship of hitting balls into the direct sunlight.....Could you imagine suggesting that to the committee at YOUR home club? For all you range rats, the range boasts approximately 15 greens of your choice to hit towards. To put into perspective how good their range is, some of their targets have the potential of being the strongest par three at your local municipal club.

ON THE TEE... that silky smooth swing you were grooving on the range has now lured you into the largest false sense of security known to mankind. You have now been left with a swing that resembles handling a live rattle snake. The bold call of 'yeah, we'll play the tips today' seems to be the worst decision you have ever made. WHACK, you make connection and you're off. The opener is a sharp dog leg to the right and a green that I think resembles the second hole at Dornoch. Yeah, y'know, the hardest approach shot in all of links golf?? Well that's your opening hole at PV. If you manage to escape number 1 with a bogey or less I want you to literally run to the second tee box.

Hole 2 is a short par 4 at 368 yards which demands a straight tee shot as there are approximately 20 bunkers that litter both the left and right of the fairway. I managed to find the short stuff and was faced with what I like to call 'a typical Pine Valley shot' (pictured below). A thirty foot incline in elevation and a wall of sand to contend with. A bump 'n' run wont work here...

Hole number 3 is my (very biased) favourite hole on the course. A par 3 that can play anywhere from 160 to 200 yards depending on pin position. With a green that slopes severely right-to-left there are some interesting pin positions to be had. Rumour has it that some ginger fella from Cruden Bay bagged himself an ace here a few years back but some say its just an urban myth.

Hole 5. This hole was playing 230 uphill and you can add another 15 yards for the uphill. Again, similar story to the first 4 holes, long is dead, short is dead, left is dead, right is dead. I swear PV must be the easiest course to caddy on... 'Sir, its 165 yards, I'm going to ask you to hit the green here or we will have to write down an 8 and move on'. Okay, slight exaggeration but there not many places you can miss.

This is the view that awaits you whilst standing on the back of the 10th tee looking down over the 18th fairway. PV have undergone a massive project to remove a high number of trees to restore it back to its original shape. This will expose the sand bankings and natural sandy terrain that it has been built on.

10th hole - a short par 3 playing 145 yards on the day. This is probably the most straight forward shot you will face all day but if you come up short, you will most likely end up in this bunker known as 'the devils asshole' which is shown in the next photo.

The Devils Asshsole - approximately 8 feet in depth to clear the lip. You know a bunkers deep when the caddy's advise is to use a hybrid and run it up the face of the bunker. Disclaimer ** My playing partner Kevin did not hit it into the bunker, he was just 'wanting to see what it looked like'. Take from that what you will.

Hole 14 - 220 yard, par 3 with a pond short and bunkers surrounding the green.

Hole 15 - Par 5 - 615 yards that starts off with a 200 yard forced carry over water just to wet your appetite. At PV, they keep a record of who manages to hit the par 5's in two shots. I can safely say my name is not on that list.

Hole 18 - This is my favourite hole at PV. A demanding carry from the back tees which leaves a long iron to this 483 yard par 4. The second shot is a similar test to which you face on hole number 2, A wall of bunkers to an elevated green. Only difference is that this hole plays 120 yards longer.

Here is a view looking back up the 18th fairway. This really highlights the undulations and elevation changes that you face when playing this maginificent course.

This has to be one of the sadest views in golf. Your time at Pine Valley is coming to a close. After you have finished your round, it is tradition to go inside and order a 'Snapper Soup'. Snapper soup is a crab flavoured soup that's best served with a dash of sherry. It doesn't sound too inviting but its delicious. It has more of a ham flavour to it than you might expect.

I have been lucky enough to have played here twice now and if I don't get a chance to tee it up again I will not complain as I have played it in great conditions and in great company. I even played well on both occasions. If you ever get invited to come play here, you must drop everything that's going on in your life and book a flight.

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