This Saturday I had the privilege to play in the 19th Annual Bryan S. Clark Pi Kappa Alpha Golf Scramble at the Griffin Gate Golf Course in Lexington. I haven’t played in all 19 editions of this Golf Scramble, but I’ve attended more than a dozen, for sure.
In prior years I’ve been on teams that finished in the money, and I’ve been on teams that could barely stand up after 16 holes. Every year, regardless of the quality of golf displayed, a good time is had by all, and 2014 was no exception.
We play the Scramble at the Marriott Griffin Gate Golf Club pretty much every year. The resort-style course is practically perfect for hosting a golf scramble, and its location almost literally at the intersection of interstates 64 & 75 makes it a great collection point for all our out-of-town visitors.
Griffin Gate Golf Club was designed by the Rees Jones, the heralded and controversial “Open Doctor,” and opened for play in 1981. We played the Scramble from the Blue Tees, which measure to just under 6,200 yards and play to a course rating and slope of 69.5/129.
Griffin Gate is not a terribly long or tough course from the regular tees, and its wide fairways and large greens are the ideal setup to move our largely “altered” golfers through.
And the course is almost invariably in impeccable condition. Perhaps its a product of our consistent scheduling of the Scramble to coincide with the Preakness Stakes each May, but Griffin Gate’s bent grass tees, fairways, and greens were the perfect shade of dark green.
The course uses a lot of angles and hazards that actually makes the golfer put more thought into the tee shot than your standard grip-it-and-rip-it resort course.
If you hit the ball where you’re supposed to from the tee, the course is very generous and relatively easy. For the highly skilled golfer, the course can be overpowered with excess length.
However, there are enough bunkers, water hazards, and hard turning dogleg fairways to challenge the golfer not in control of their golf ball (count my group in this category).
If I were pressed for a complaint about the golf course, I might propose two: first, the greens are incredibly slow at Griffin Gate. Perhaps it’s a product of how much water is required to keep all that bent grass green.
Or maybe it’s that the course is set up as close to a true resort style layout (“get ’em on, get ’em through) and a desire to get as many groups through as possible without delays. Regardless, Griffin Gate’s large greens consistently play slower than anywhere else in Central Kentucky.
The only other complaint I might have is that the course is showing its age under the strain of modern golf clubs and balls. As drives and ball flights have gotten longer (generally, and in my own game), several holes have become borderline awkward.
What were probably an excellent collection of par 4 and par 5 holes 30 years ago have evolved, through no fault of Jones or the course, into a menagerie of holes that requires something other than driver from the tee.
If I were playing by myself and trying to really score at Griffin Gate, I would probably hit an equal number of hybrids and drivers from the tee on the par 4’s and 5’s.
While some might argue that this creates a better thinking man’s golf game, it’s almost an oddity compared to what I generally consider Scramble golf.
Nonetheless, the course held up well and was plenty enough challenge for my semi-serious group of golfers. And how well or how poorly we played ultimately was of secondary importance to the camaraderie and fun we had on the day.
Despite the rugged beard and curmudgeon’s attitude, I’m more susceptible to sentiment and nostalgia than I care to admit.
Even in the limited space of an hour before the shotgun start and a round of drinks afterwards whilst waiting to watch the running of the Preakness, it’s heart-warming to catch up with guys that I may not have seen in a few years.
Ultimately, the Scramble is an opportunity to renew friendships of days gone by and to remember and honor the legacy of a brother taken far too soon. So I will leave you with the testimonials from some of my brethren about Bryan S. Clark, and remind you that despite the hours and dollars we put into it, golf is just a game.