Growing up in Sweden, I read about many famous courses around the world, but there was one whose legend really seized my imagination: Pine Valley Golf Club in southern New Jersey. In 2005 I finally had the chance to play it, on the Monday after winning my third consecutive McDonald’s LPGA Championship. I don’t usually go to the "office" on my days off, but I was willing to make an exception for Pine Valley. It was the opportunity of a lifetime.
My presence that day was unusual because the club is typically closed on Mondays and because women are permitted to play Pine Valley only on Sundays. I wasn’t unnerved: It’s often the case that I’m the only woman on the course.
Coming off a big win, I played really well, shooting even par from the members’ (i.e., men’s) tees. The course is a challenge, and you need to hit it straight in order to score. But I didn’t agonize over every shot or keep detailed notes of which club I used when and why. I just enjoyed the course. Each hole is unique, and they are all equally compelling in the variety of shots they require, the menacing appearance of their hazards and the ruggedness of their terrain.
Pine Valley has been ranked number one in the world for many years, and it was easy to see why. The course architects completely captured the natural environment, and I loved the warm, traditional atmosphere of the club itself.
I’m just beginning my career as a course designer, and I know that I will often look to my round at Pine Valley for inspiration. The course’s successes are more than worthy of study and aspiration. I haven’t been back since, but Pine Valley remains at the top of my list.