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Merced Golf Country Club Let the Games Begin


and –


BY KEVIN MERFELD W


hen the fi rst sliver of light slips through the sur- rounding eucalyptus and pine trees at Merced Golf


and Country on Sunday mornings, you can count on fi nding a horde of golfers crowding the fi rst tee. Sometimes it’s just a group of


six, other times the mass swells to 16 die-hard golf junkies. And off they will go, one giant mob of club-jingling humanity down the rolling and dew-fi lled fi rst fairway, with bets upon bets upon bets. If there are as many as 16 golf-


ers, they will be divided by handi- cap into two teams. Simultaneously, each player has a Nassau bet with every golfer on the other team. That’s nine bets per player for


those of you scoring at home. But despite the higher math taking place, it will never take this fun-loving group more than four hours to fi nish. Yep, a 16-some can play in


four hours. The herd of golfers fi res when


ready, until they reach the green. Then the closest player putts fi rst, and tees off as soon as the ball is holed. It’s a hybrid of golf and a


relay race. “Merced is a wonderful place to be a member because you can always get a game out here,” says Brian Morse, the NCGA President in 2014. “You would not


26 / NCGA.ORG / WINTER 2014


be a stranger out here for very long. There are many games to be a part of, and they’ll take you in very quickly.” Merced was originally founded as a nine-hole course in 1926, before eventually growing to 18 holes. The Bob Baldock design squeezes through tree-lined fairways, hops a meandering creek, and dances around a pair of ponds. You will also fi nd the occasional shaggy, yet expansive willow tree, a symbol of the club itself. “The property has matured a


lot,” Morse said. “All these trees in this time have just gotten huge. The course has gotten a little more narrow and diffi cult to navigate.” While the city of Merced is


known as the “Gateway to Yo- semite,” it is rarely confused with a national park. But it takes an especially skilled ball-striker to avoid all the crowding trees at the only private club in Merced county. “We have members that


carry 2-irons just to punch out from under those trees,” says Aaron Hartesveldt, Merced’s head pro. The front side was the


original nine at Merced, but it is the newer back side that is more exciting, and encourages risk-reward play. “The members all like the


back nine,” Hartesveldt said. “We have guys that play a skins game after work and they always head out there. The front is more diffi cult, while the back has some


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