|View of 18th Hole (Member's Course) from Clubhouse|
It was a blustery day in October when I dropped by Eagle Bend to inquire about annual memberships. I was hoping to play the course as a "single", never having had ANY DIFFICULTY getting on even the most popular courses in the world last minute, including St. Andrews and Carnoustie (Scotland), Cog Hill (Chicago), Torrey Pines (San Diego), and Princeville (Kauai) to name just a few.
The two men behind the counter acted as if I were an alien, grudgingly taking the time to answer my questions about spending close to $1500 per year to play golf on their course. When I asked about getting out as a single that day, the course was busy but not overwhelmed, I was told it would be "impossible". "Really" I said, thinking they were joking, but they were as serious as heart attacks. I asked if it was always so difficult getting on as a single and they confirmed that it was, something I had not heard in 50 years of playing golf as a single, so I left, never to return.
|Enjoying Sunday Brunch|
Alvamar staff reacted immediately and superbly, doing everything they could to help me, including wading through knee deep sludge in a drainage ditch and combing the woods for any sign of my possessions. They was absolutely nothing they could have done to prevent this bazaar theft and went above and beyond after, a testament to the commitment to outstanding customer service I have witnessed so far.
|Eggs Benedict, Quiche Lorraine, Hash Browns, Biscuit and Gravy|
I have since had a chance to play both courses and have been impressed with the layouts and conditions even though the grass is still dormant. With the exception of a few holes, the courses are both very walkable. The Member's Course is much tighter than the Championship (public) Course, a 7,000+ yard test which reminds me of the Robert Trent Jones designed "Blue" Course at the U.S. Air Force Academy where I was a member while on the faculty from 1988 to 1993.
|Pete's Omelet and Bacon|
Pete, the chef at the omelet bar, does an excellent job and the omelet was superb. Beside fresh eggs, you can choose from bacon, ham, cheddar cheese, onions, peppers, and mushrooms. Everything else was fresh and flavorful with a few exceptions. The English muffins in the eggs Benedict had obviously been there all morning and were so difficult to cut with my butter knife that I finally gave up. The "Prime Rib" was actually pre-sliced roast beef (no carving station) in a Bordelaise sauce, tender and flavorful, but not Prime Rib. My only other suggestion would be a dew more dessert options other than slides fruit and store-bought muffins and breakfast pastries, possibly homemade cheesecake, chocolate cake, or pie/cobbler ala mode.
Food: The menu is eclectic and so far I have tried the Reuben sandwich (corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, and thousand island dressing on marbled rye with choice of side - seasoned French fries, cottage fries, mashed potatoes, etc - $9), the original mel't (4 cheese grilled cheese sandwich with melted cheese on top, accompanied by choice of side - $8), the chicken fried steak (flaky, breaded, grilled beef with mashed potatoes and veggie 0 $12.50), the blackened burger ($9), and the taco special (Thursdays - 2 tacos for $3).
|Taco Special - 2 for $3|
The blackened burger was "OK", nothing special. And the tacos were a huge disappointment, even at a buck-fifty a piece. On prefab, store bought corn taco shells, a smattering of overly greasy, seasoned beef, very little (melted) cheese, and a wisp of lettuce barely filled the shells (not the large variety) halfway. The salsa appeared to be Pace or some other commercial variety, not homemade and the big cup of sour cream was wasted on a taco aficionado who would never think of putting sour cream on anything, well maybe a baked potato, much less a taco. I can walk to Fuzzy's Tacos on Massachusetts Street and get a top-notch taco with shredded beef (ground beed, pork, and chicken available), abundant cheese, lettuce, and fresh tomato on a crispy handmade corn shell for only $2, so these were very disappointing.
I was talked in to trying the baked Ziti ($14) by Pauly, who as a Bostonian should know good Italian food. I have to say that the dish was not bad, probably a bit overpriced (it should come with garlic bread or a salad for that price). The mozzarella cheese on top was baked to perfection (see photo). The store bought pasta was al dente as it should be and the accompanying peppers, onions, and sausage were tasty although there was a bit too much sauce. Overall, the dish was decent, not great.
A new veal dish, Veal Scaloppini Francesca ($22.00), parmesan battered veal with gnocchi dressed in boursin cream and served with a vegetable medley recently caught my attention. Being a lover of all things veal, I had to try it. The photo is deceiving, but there were more vegetables than either veal or gnocchi on the plate. Maybe 3-4 ounces of veal max, it was lightly battered. tender, but appeared and tasted frozen. The gnocchi, all seven of them, were hidden under the sauce and mushy, overcooked. The sauce was tasty enough, but drenched the plate and obscured what little veal and gnocchi were on the plate. At $22, the dish was disappointing. A price in the $14 range or a few more ounces of veal and gnocchi would make the dish more palatable.
The member's driving range is an utter disappointment. Very large with plenty of room to move the tees around, the grass is so poorly maintained that it is difficult to find a decent lie to practice from. On the other hand, the "public" range is well kept and plush, having recently been verticut and reseeded, telling me that members are not as appreciated or respected as well as non-members.
|Original Mel't - $8|
Conclusion: Early on in our membership, I can say that Alvamar Golf and Country Club is a pretty good value, providing good customer service and individualized attention from most employees. The food is adequate, fairly reasonable in price, but for what you would expect from a "country club" ... a bit "below par".
Having joined Alvamar to meet people in a new town, I have to say that management does not practice what they preached during my initial tour, catering mostly to the more affluent, socially connected, better golfers at the club. They rarely have a word to say to me, talking at length to those sitting beside me while ignoring me for the most part. The Alvamar Ambassadors, those key members tasked with making new members feel welcome, dropped the ball after our first Bounty Night (Friday night cash and prize drawings), virtually ignoring my wife and I ever since. Members, while mostly pleasant on the surface, are cliquish and isolationists, avoiding talking, much less asking new members to join them for golf, or otherwise interacting with those they deem cool enough for their attention. A few key members, one who staff and members refer to as "Lord" SoAndSo, are apparently so impressed with their golf acumen and/or social status that they have refuse to even acknowledge my existence after several attempts to interact with them by simply saying "hello". It would have been nice to feel included for the hundreds of dollars a month we have been sacrificing to try to meet people in a new town, but after six months we have no more friends than when we joined in March. We will be taking that into consideration when our membership is up for renewal next March.
Key Words: Alvamar Golf and Country Club, Alvamar, Golf, Country, Club, Lawrence, Kansas, 66047, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value