A Day with a Golf Pro at Brick Landing Golf Course
Only a few short years ago Brick Landing Golf Club was overgrown, unkempt, abandoned and forgotten. Then a group of individuals with roots in Pender County courses saw potential in the structure of the course and set out to breathe new life into the greens. It has been revived to become one of the most versatile and unique golf courses in the southern part of the county, a real diamond in the rough.
The course begins just off the pristinely beautiful Intracoastal Waterway and meanders into the adjacent communities. Early morning here is beautiful: The sun rises over the glassy water and illuminates the façade of the freshly painted clubhouse, which is reflected off one of many water hazards scattered strategically throughout the course.
There is no shortage of difficulties to negotiate during a round of golf here. After all, this is a course that often boasts the motto “It takes balls to play the Brick,” referring to the amount of golf ball sacrifices the course requires. Difficult in its own unique way, the links-style course offers little relief from a bad day; however, the vistas alone can revive even the worst drive.
As per many coastal courses, Brick Landing can offer dramatic wind challenges. In many cases you can be facing large water hazards immediately off the tee with a 10 to 20 mph head wind. Then almost as if in taunting fashion you’ll round the corner to be facing into the wind again! This, of course, can be maddening, but if you love a challenge it’s great fun.
On my recent visit to Brick Landing, I was fortunate to have the ultimate guidance of the most knowledgeable guy on the course. I got schooled by course pro Trey Ernstes.
Ernstes is a kind guy with an enthusiasm for the sport. He picked up his first set of sticks when he was a teenager, and it was evident even then that he would pursue a life surrounded by the sport. After attending The Golf Academy in Myrtle Beach, he was ready to take on that challenge. He had a short stint as assistant pro at Old Pointe Golf Course in Hampstead, and then he was asked to take his expertise to a course that was recently purchased and in renovation — Brick Landing 2.0.
On a late-summer morning, twinged with a touch of Southern humidity, I met Ernstes on the dew-covered tee box for a quick round. After a few jokes and shenanigans as we wound our way deep into the course, he started to peel back the layers of Brick Landing.
Named for the brick depot just down the waterway that boomed in the 19th century, the course holds tight to the relics that shaped her. Many of the holes reminisce of the old construction, while others boast new challenges of the landscape. The greens themselves are stellar — Bermuda grass, a varietal that is unique to the area and unparalleled by any other course in North Carolina.
Ernstes taught me about The Brick and all of its nuances — and then he schooled my golf game. I am a self-proclaimed “bogey golfer” and at times it seems there is little that can be done to fix my ailments on the golf course. However, with his patient and observant demeanor, Ernstes evaluated many of my mistakes and offered a combination of short-term and long-term fixes.
On working with clients he says, “It is important to recognize the issues they are trying to fix. Do they want to just put a Band-Aid on the problem or fix it the right way?”
Much of Ernstes’ philosophy dials back to the short game. “I love short game and I believe it is the most important thing in golf,” he says, almost immediately after rolling a few from the cup from 50 or so yards out.
So much in the way of golf comes down to the very basic fundamentals. I can remember a The Far Side comic that depicts a golfer going through his pre-swing warm up trying to remember all the absurd tricks and tools to keep his swing dialed in perfectly. Each thought bubble read a tip that we’ve all said or heard – “Keep your head down,” “Left arm straight,” “Be the ball” (err, actually I think that last one may be from Caddyshack). The comic strip made me chuckle. It stands out because so much of this sport is about minor tweaks; a slow evolution to eventual perfection that is impossible to achieve. Like no other sport, golf is the combination of natural, relaxing recreation and personal strife and self-loathing.
Golf is an exercise in abuse disguised as a day outside with friends. As we wound our cart under the beautiful live oaks and along the waterway, basking in the warm morning sun, I thought for a second: Every time I’m on a new course I feel that old love for the game. I start to remember why I put myself through this torment.
At Brick Landing, it only took a few glimpses across the finely manicured expanses to find peace in smacking around that little white ball — that is until I inevitably lost it.