The Morristown, N.J. club rearranges holes so they are not played in the usual order or direction and adds unique rules to add a fun twist—like hitting a drive while seated in a chair or swinging from the opposite side (righties swing lefty or vice-versa). Also, Farmington Country Club in Charlottesville, Va., created a 9-hole miniature golf course on three different practice putting greens for a 27-hole Putting Championship event that was open to everyone, regardless of age or skill level.
(As featured in C+RB’s 14th Annual Ideas Issue, June 2020.)
A lot more than meat goes into making a tasty meatball. And the same can be said for the annual Men’s “Meatball Tournament” at Spring Brook Country Club in Morristown, N.J.
Contested for generations, the tournament is played every fall as the concluding tournament of the club’s golf season. In the 1950s and ‘60s, the “Dover Gutter Band” played along the course, with a trumpet and bass drum announcing the shots. Clowns and pony rides entertained the children during the day, and the entire family enjoyed a cookout when the tournament was over. Traditionally, tournament “losers” would serve the “winners” in Spring Brook’s Grille Room.
The Meatball Tournament continues today, minus the band and all-day family activities. But the golf holes for the “cross-country scramble” are re-arranged so they are not played in the usual order or direction—for example, playing from the sixth fairway to the second green, or from the black tee on the seventh hole to the 10th green.
The format goes beyond just mixing up the routing, however. To add to the fun, a unique rule must be followed on each hole. On one, a player must hit his tee shot while seated in a chair. On another, players must drive and putt from his opposite natural side.
Golfers are provided with plenty of fuel, starting with a full breakfast buffet. Food stations are also set up on the sixth hole, 16th tee and at the halfway house, featuring meatballs (of course), sausage and peppers, antipasto salad, Italian subs, Italian beer, wine and Sambuca, and more. After the tournament, all can partake of an elaborate Italian luncheon that includes chicken parmesan, stuffed shells, pasta Faggioli and stuffed peppers.
“The tournament is always sold out, with approximately 120 players,” says Chris Lukov, Spring Brook’s Assistant General Manager. “The members absolutely love it and take huge pride in it.”
Plans for 2020’s “Meatball” depends on what New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy will allow at the time of the tournament. “So far it is still on the calendar, and we hope to be able to execute it,” Lukov says. “We may have tweak the format a little bit, but the curve of the disease has been flattening here in New Jersey. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.”
The Goal: Close out the golf season with a unique and fun event at Spring Brook CC while maintaining a longstanding club tradition.
The Plan: Mix up the course routing for a “cross-country scramble” and add unique rules for each hole, such as hitting from a chair, and provide plenty of Italian-themed food and refreshments.
The payoff: The Men’s “Meatball Tournament,” held since the 1950s, is always sold out and is the second-largest tournament at the club, behind only the three-day member-guest.
For a 27-hole Putting Championship event that was open to everyone, regardless of age or skill level, the golf staff at Farmington Country Club, Charlottesville, Va., created a 9-hole miniature golf course on three different practice putting greens, each with a different theme (“America,” “Toy Story,” and “A Day at the Beach”). Members completed one 9-hole course and then drove golf carts to the next location, and after all 27 holes were completed, a playoff was held to decide an overall champion. Beverages were driven around for members to grab on the go. Three teams of two people each from the golf staff were assigned to create the courses, using props and pictures to add extra creativity to their themes. Those who participated in the event were impressed with the level of detail put into creating each of the courses, the club reports.
Farmington CC also staged a “Golf and Pony Show” on its East Course, for which participants played 10 holes and were then taken by bus to nearby Colonial Downs for an evening of horse racing. During the bus ride, members were served drinks and light snacks while listening to a discussion on the “History of Horse Racing in Virginia and Handicapping” that was led by Head Golf Professional Rob McNamara and Debbie Easter of the Virginia Thoroughbred Association. Upon arrival at Colonial Downs, the group was taken to a private box, where they watched the races and enjoyed appetizers and dinner.
The unique twist for the event was that each attendee filled out a betting sheet while at the races, which had the potential of lowering the event’s corresponding golf score. Picking a winning horse earned a three-shot deduction, a second-place finisher earned a two-shot deduction and a “show” horse earned a one-shot deduction. The member with the lowest score after the races were completed was declared the winner of the event.
During the second race of the night—“The Farmington Cup”—the group was taken down to the track’s paddock area to have their picture taken with the winning horse.
Member reactions were so immediately positive, the club reports, that talk of doing the same thing next year began on the bus ride home.