En Joie Golf Club lives up to its reputation

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En Joie Golf Club assistant professional, Ryan Evans, tees off on the course’s signature 15th hole.

ENDICOTT – Any golf course that has hosted a professional tournament for four decades does not need a boost in publicity. For us, though, playing En Joie Golf Club was an opportunity to play one of the premier 18-hole facilities in the Southern Tier.
Yes, neighboring public courses such as Conklin Players Club and the Links at Hiawatha Landing have built stellar reputations as marquee venues, but each falls a little short in the luster department.
Rick Ferris and I made our sixth tour of area courses earlier this week, and we were joined by En Joie assistant pro – and 2007 Norwich High School graduate – Ryan Evans.
Evans, who has worked as a PGA Class B professional in an apprentice role the past few years, earned his Class A PGA card on July 1 passing the last of the rigorous tests administered by the PGA.
In his second year with En Joie, Evans, now living in Greene, has no immediate plans to abandon En Joie or the area, although he could now easily step into a head pro position in the South or the West.
“I get a lot of questions about going down South, but I would just be another one of the 10,000 guys already down there,” Evans said. “I’m very happy where I am right now. One of my biggest goals is to see golf in this area grow. It would be great if I can be one of the guys to start that.”
When we stepped to the first tee, the intention was to assess a well-known golf course, and pick the brain of a guy – Evans – who would know all of the ins and outs. Turns out Evans’ path to this point in his career made for an interesting subplot.
The former Purple Tornado linkster didn’t pick up the game until he was 14 years old. He was a freshman player under retired NHS golf coach Bob Branham, and honed his fundamentals over four years on the golf team, while also developing into a gentleman golfer with a solid foundation in course etiquette.
By the time Evans finished his career at Norwich, he was one of the top two or three players on the team, and he decided to continue his golfing journey in college at SUNY Delhi where he studied Golf Management.
In his four years at Delhi – two of which he played on the college golf team – Evans decided he wanted to make a career out of the golf business.  He won the 2011 Delhi Invitational during his senior, a victory that gave him the confidence that he was a capable enough player to become a teaching professional.
Upon graduation from Delhi, Evans had a job lined up at En Joie as an assistant pro, but the flood of 2011 washed out half of the season. Evans wound up serving as an assistant pro at Seven Oaks in Hamilton for two years before moving on to En Joie in 2014.
En Joie is home for him now, and he served as an enjoyable host through some occasionally spotty weather. His first words on the opening tee – ones I heard repeatedly from Rick – “don’t go left here.”
I didn’t go left on the first hole, but I was left and right of the short stuff on nearly ever other hole. I was not egregiously missing fairways, either, but I found out quickly that you can miss by a mere yard or two, and still find yourself in a quandary.
“The rough here grows straight up, so the ball nestles down to the bottom,” Evans said. “The rough right now is about the toughest that I’ve seen.”
Evans said there is a bit of a misconception about the width of the fairways at En Joie. On most holes, the fairway is at least 30 to 40 yards wide. But, and this is the kicker, the first cut of rough is about three paces, leading into the heavy stuff. Plus, there are trees aplenty left and right up and down nearly every hole on the course. The typical visual you have from the tee makes the width of the fairway appear more narrow.
While I was often searching to find my ball in the rough, I waxed envious as Ryan and Rick were hitting from the beautifully groomed fairways. The few times I found myself in the fairway, I was tempted to roll my ball in winter rules fashion. But upon review, the lie was always perfect.
Like many of the previous courses we have played this summer, hitting driver off the tee is not a necessity except for the four par-fives, all of which play to 500 yards or longer from the white tees as well as a couple of par-fours on the back side that play to 400-plus yards.
“You don’t need driver on every hole, and I think the course plays very fair if you can get it in the fairway,” Rick said. “The course is in excellent condition, and the greens are really receptive.”
Rick was chagrined when he didn’t heed his own advice on the what we all agreed was the signature hole, the par-four 15th hole. It offers an imposing tee shot with water up the entire left side all the way to the front of the green.
The tees used by the professionals has the hole playing over 425 yards; however, we were looking at about 360 yards from white tees to green. Rick, good with the long stick all day, hooked his tee shot into the water. I believe some choice words followed, but I judiciously avoided writing down the word-for-word quote.
When it was my turn to hit, I wasn’t thinking about the water at all, but my ball sure was. I snapped a nasty hook that skipped a couple of times before submerging to its death.  I walked down to the end of the tee to where it meets the water, and dropped a ball down. I poked my three hybrid out to the fairway and proceeded toward the green.
Ryan took the time to advise Rick, “you could have hit your hybrid and been in good shape.”  Rick agreed, although he was still talking to himself for misclubbing the initial tee shot.
En Joie Golf Club has no overt tricks up its sleeve. Everything is right there in front of you, and it’s up to the golfer to execute. I don’t recall a single blind tee shot, the doglegs are gentle left or right turns, and the elevation changes are minimal.
Rainfall has slowed the greens a touch, but they run a little faster than average, and the size of the greens can create a two to three club selection difference. Despite the third largest accumulation of rainfall in a month (June), the course is in fine shape with healthy – really healthy ­– rough.
Rick didn’t have his GPS unit available for our round, so we could have been in a bit of fix with our yardages. Fortunately, we had Ryan handy to dial in our club selection.  He was pretty spot-on with that, now, if he could only fix our golf games.

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