MONROE TOWNSHIP, NJ – Last Thursday saw the 10th annual Writer Cup between Philadelphia/NJ and Greater New York City golf writers end in yet another Philly romp. Yet as Philly Captain Mike Kern of the Inquirer was again drenched in metaphoric victory champagne and as his players were wreathed in the smoky fog of proverbial victory cigars for the eighth time in ten years, the hearts and minds of every golf writer were filled with gratitude to Forsgate Country Club for hosting the event. If there is one thing that hasn’t changed in the illustrious 86-year history of Forsgate Country Club, it’s the altruistic ethos. It’s not what they do that defines them, its what they do for others. That’s why Chris Schiavone’s leadership has been so successful, that’s why the morale is so uniformly positive among the members, and that’s why all golf should be grateful for Forsgate Country Club’s phoenix-like resurgence – we still have something pure and admirable in our game.
It was ten years ago that the club announced they would pit 36 writers from New York and Philly against each other in a team competition, and ever since that day the players have circled it on the calendar to set it aside, eagerly awaiting the invitation and gratefully accepting it when it comes.
“We look forward to this every year, it’s the best event we play,” echoed veteran scribe after veteran scribe, and why not? They get to play the fabled Banks Course – the last great golf course of the architectural Bloodline of C.B. Macdonald, Seth Raynor, and Charles “Steamshovel” Banks, perhaps the most precious legacy in golf design. As such, the Banks Course is an important milepost in golf design history. Banks knew this was his swan song in America, so everything he designed here, he went over the top. Wildly undulating greens are perched perilously on hilltops, bunkers are oceanic and cavernous, and topsy-turvy fairways rumble fiercely across a landscape that, with the right kind of eyes, looks more akin to the moors of middle England than the Garden State.
The par-3s in particular are all museum pieces, textbook examples of the four templates used most often by the Bloodline – Short, Eden, Redan, and Biarritz. No less a personage than Ran Morrissett, perhaps the brightest mind in golf design without being an architect himself – called them every bit as good as the par-3s at Pine Valley and among the best in the country. The greatest, of course, is 17 with its 84-yard deep green featuring a swale no less than 6 feet deep and 20 feet across, brilliantly restored by architect Stephen Kay. Indeed, Forsgate may be his magnum opus to date.
If there’s one thing that can rival the greens for top billing it’s the bunkers. At Forsgate, there’s a safe side, and there’s doom. Bunkers up to 25 feet deep swallow players whole, and part of the fun of the round is watching your partners’ agonized expressions as a ball tumbles down the grass face back to their feet. One friend I brought here took so many swings in Shell Bunker (front right on the par-3 third) I was worried he’d get black lung disease – called “getting Steamshoveled” in the club vernacular). We never did find Mike Kern’s ball after he bladed one out of Large Marge Bunker (greenside right on 15). And you really shouldn’t have to ask why I putt he ball the last 80 yards of the ninth fairway, (the bunker is as large as its name sake, the Sea of Tranquility, a crater on the Moon).
The writers are also dutifully grateful for the club’s hospitality. The food is sublime – a nigh incomparable spread of steak and lobster fit for royalty plus a cookout of chicken, burgers, and hot dogs on the golf course. In my career as a sports writer, I’ve written about the food exactly three times: once for the “Burger Dogs” at Olympic Club, once for the lobster and bisque at National Golf Links of America, and once to crack wise at the “molecular gastronomy” and “farm to table” nonsense I was served in Cabo. But Forsgate’s culinary experience stands shoulder to shoulder with Pine Valley, Garden City, National and Winged Foot, whether it’s clams and chorizo in the locker room with Big Wayne and his pals, a tender, succulent rib-eye sandwich in the grill room, or a cookout on the deck overlooking Purgatory bunker and the 18th green. Every meal is a banquet.
But what all golf is most grateful for is that, for the members, every day is Writer Cup day. Every single day at Forsgate, the course is that enchanting, the food is that stellar, the members are that cheerful, and the atmosphere is exactly what anyone could wish for in a club. It’s affordable for the whole family, the events are lively, the members all become fast friends, and the groupthink ethos of “club first, individual second” makes for a convival atmosphere. When you play Forsgate, you walk in history, when you join Forsgate: you become a steward of history at a club that is truly a personification of the game’s values. That’s the magic of the club. People lament that golf is dying? Well come out to Forsgate and have your faith restored. No member could ever ask for a better club.
Thank you, Forsgate – Chris Schiavone, Carolyn Andrews, Pat Norton, Lou, Kaitlin, Mike, Allison, Don Asinski, and everyone at the club. Thank you not just for what you do for the writers, but for what you do for the game. Keep doing what you’re doing, because all golf is better for it. Somewhere in Heaven, John Forster is smiling. What you have built here is exactly what he had in mind when he founded the club.