Thursday, July 08, 2010

If you want to ask Travelin' Joe a question, e-mail him at askjoe@golf.com.

Hi Joe,
I have a friend who won a certificate for a twosome at New Jersey's Baltusrol. Unfortunately, four of us are making the trip. If I am not the lucky one, I was looking for advice on a decent course that's in that general vicinity. Any suggestions?
Kevin M.
Via email

"Would the two really jealous guys please report to the first tee?" Kevin, if you happen to miss out on Baltusrol, I couldn't blame you for being a little bummed. That said, you'll get over your woes in a hurry at Neshanic Valley Golf Course ($50-$80; 908-369-8200, somersetcountyparks.org). Situated in Neshanic Station, 25 miles southwest of Baltusrol as the crow flies, Neshanic Valley is a $20 million muni with 27 Hurdzan/Fry-designed holes, a 9-hole executive Academy course, a state-of-the-art practice center and the second on-course Callaway club-fitting center built in the U.S.

The Lake/Meadow combo opened first, with the aptly named Lake offering the most risk-reward options, but the Ridge nine is equal to the others in challenge and interest. This treeless spread sports tall grasses, serious bunkering, undulating greens and excellent conditions, especially for a muni. No, it ain't Balty, but Neshanic is nonetheless a soothing salve.

Dear Joe,
What are the best-condition, challenge, beauty-public access courses near Columbus, Ohio (within about 20 miles of downtown Columbus? I want to play at least one on a visit in late July with my teenage high school golf team sons. Cost is not an issue.
Thanks,
John P. Ryan
Via email

For the perfect blend of what you're looking for in the Buckeye State, you'll have to drive 45 miles east to Longaberger ($59-$99; 740-763-1100, longabergergolfclub.com), in Nashport, the Arthur Hills design that rates as Ohio's best public course.

For something closer to the number you were looking at, try the vapidly named East Golf Club ($39-$59; 614-855-8600, eastgolfclub.com), a well-wooded Arthur Hills creation in New Albany, seven miles outside the I-270 loop, that's decidedly more interesting than its name. Once the private Winding Hollow Country Club, then known as Tartan East, the layout is terrific even if its name isn't.

Hello, Joe,
My brother and I are going to be staying in Bryson City, N.C. from July 10-July 15. We have a free place to stay in Bryson City. What courses do you recommend in the area? We would be willing to travel within a 1- to 1.5-mile radius.
Boone Sutties
Conroe, Texas

Start right down the road with the brand new Sequoyah National Golf Club ($65-$110; 828-497-3000, sequoyahnational.com) in Cherokee, a Robert Trent Jones II/Notah Begay creation in the heart of the Smokies. Narrow, but spectacular defines this tree-studded tribal track that's part of the Harrah's Cherokee Hotel & Casino.

Forty-five minutes to the east, in Asheville is the Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa ($85-$149; 800-438-5800, groveparkinn.com), where the history of the hotel (ten U.S. Presidents have lodged there, including current First Golfer Barack Obama) is exceeded perhaps only by its classic Donald Ross layout, where savvy on uphill, downhill and sidehill lies will come in handy.

For another classic Ross experience at a fraction of the cost, the 6,420-yard, par-72 Asheville Municipal Golf Course ($17-$38; 828-298-1867, ashevilleparks.org) will satisfy. A flat front nine yields to a wildly hilly back side, capped off by the downhill plunge at the 222-yard, par-3 18th.

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