My new favorite fall golf trip
The gravel road, only wide enough for two cars, it could have done it. Or the sight of a single car in the parking lot at the end of this path. But the sign on the clubhouse door most certainly told us that we were going to experience something, say, distinct.
On a sheet of paper, in blue letters, under the course logo, we could read:
“We are on the course. Please call. Thank you.”
So we did.
“Hey, we’re at the clubhouse here and the sign says that …” my friend said.
“Take a cart, stay on the paths today and I’ll be back when you’re done,” said the friendly voice on the other end of the phone. “Enjoy!”
And that’s how we started our first full day on a recent fall golf trip to the Poconos. In two and a half days in northeastern Pennsylvania, we found three breweries and a liquor store that only sold candy and beer. We have learned that Wawa can power both the car and the soul. And we set it at five courses. One of them told us to knock and they would see us after 18 years. And featured the smallest green vegetables I’ve ever seen outside of a produce aisle.
Back to my new favorite fall golf trip.
The odd thing is that our little green course was maybe my fourth favorite of the five we played. This gives you an idea of the depth of the area, of which there are about 20 courses within an hour’s drive from where we stayed in Blakeslee.
My # 1, also at Blakeslee, was Jack Frost National, a par-72 that plays 7,256 yards from spikes and 6,297 yards from the third play of tees, from where we hit. To be transparent, we played it on a Thursday morning at 55 degrees, with dew on the ground, hot coffee in the cart, and colorful leaves on the trees, so even a putt-putt could win here. But JFN’s playability through the mountains and the 169-meter 11th par-3, which is played downhill and next to a waterfall, also gained points. A nice touch of routing, which the amiable starter told us, was that you’ll never see a hole other than the one you’re on – just you, your ball, and the trees on the mountain.
My # 2 was Blue Ridge Trail Golf Club, a 27 hole Mountain Top, which we played after Jack Frost. (The Ridge Course’s 7th par 5 stood out, with a bunker in the middle of the fairway about 100 yards from a downhill green creating some afternoon reflection.) No.3 was the Blue Shamrock Golf Club in Palmerton, which has four sets of tees but five on the scorecard – you can also choose the “combo” option, which mixes up the second and third sets of tees. It was also here, where the hot dogs were self-service and the menu also included something called hot bologna. (“What… hot bologna?” My friend asked a woman in the clubhouse. “The way you asked that, you’re not from here, are you She replied, before explaining that it’s, yes, bologna that’s hot, with a little pickle flavor.) And # 5 was the Mount Airy Casino Golf Course at Mount Pocono, a par-71 of 6,572 yards including 18 mimics Sports Illustrated’s “Best 18 Holes in America”.
Which brings us to # 4, Stone Meadows Golf Club in White Haven, the course that started this story. So much to love here. First off, we had planned to play just nine, but with the course all to ourselves this fall Wednesday morning, we got around in an hour and played backstroke. Second and third, you don’t need a driver, as no hole is longer than 445 yards from the middle tees, and eight of the first 12 holes were sharp doglegs. Then there were the greens.
Only in a post office will you see so many postage stamps. (I tried capturing them with a few phone photos; these are frames one and two below.) But here’s also the problem: When we drove back, Stone Meadows, we agreed, might be the only one. route that would remain in future trips. There was a home schooling vibe, if that makes sense.
And yes, we finally paid for our tour after hopping after our phone call.
We’ve made it easy for friends here – spicy Italian sausage on the grill on Tuesday night, burgers on the grill on Wednesday night, and beer kids on the grill on Thursday. Three times we went to breweries – Poconos Brewery, Creek Barley Brewing Company and Lanahu Ales. And we stocked up on supplies at Harmony drink, which sells not only what is in its name, but also candy. (As I described before in this space, I’m the son of a butcher and I was born in Milwaukee, and although I have moved from home, I don’t stray far from it when I eat and drink. )
To start our day, we ate our breakfast sandwiches and drank our coffee at Wawa. For its visitors, it is a gas station. For its faithful, it is an institution. I now know why. This is the convenience store your mother warned you about.
How to get there
For me and a travel friend of mine, Blakeslee (and our AirBNB) was less than a two minute drive from New York. Our other friend drove two hours after a flight to Philadelphia; other airport options include those in the New York area, Wilkes-Barre Scranton, and Lehigh Valley. (Another plus, for those who get into this sort of thing, is that sports betting is legal in Pennsylvania, and there may or may not have been betting on this week’s Sanderson Farms Championship.)
And then we drove and took the plane back. Before writing this, I texted the gang to say I was. And it was the journey again. There have been comments on Jack Frost and Blue Ridge. And hot Bologna and Wawa. And on planning for next year’s trip. The best fall golf trips don’t stop at one year, which this one did, they take you on to the next year, which this one has already started well.
We will go back in 2022. We have to do it. We know a course in the Poconos which will allow us to continue with a simple phone call from the 1st tee.