Playing Teddy National

The Teddy National

Students have been taking advantage of the school’s outdoor spaces this spring, whether fishing off the dock at Beebe Boathouse, working in the school’s gardens, playing Spikeball or volleyball on the Koven-Jones Glade, or gazing at the stars on the turf field. After classes, you might even see a few students playing a quick round of golf at Teddy National.

Alex Johnson ’23 set up the nine-hole course for chipping around Teddy House and even designed a scorecard and logo for it. “He's calling it Teddy National,” said Jim Balben, Director of Residential Life and a dorm parent in Teddy House. “He even went to the trouble of pacing off each hole for the yardage. I played it with a group of kids at dusk on Saturday. It's certainly not set up for novices.”

A New York native, Johnson grew up playing golf on Long Island and is now a member of the school’s coed Varsity Golf Team, whose home course is the Washington Club Golf Course. In the fall, he and Cael Dolph '23 hit balls from the Teddy House lawn into the pond at the bottom of the hillside, following the example of generations of Gunn students. And that gave him an idea.

“I thought, ‘Why not make a course?’” said Johnson, whose school email signature now reads, “Chairman, Superintendent, Grounds/Greens keeper, Architect, Head Pro of Teddy National.”

The holes are marked with flags and sticks, which must be removed weekly when the course is mowed. Johnson recommends using a pitching wedge, or no wedge greater than 60 degrees, and estimates playing time at 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the golfer’s skill level. “ I tried to make it as hard as possible,” he acknowledged.

This spring, he was able to fit in a round during free blocks and invited members of the golf team to join him on weekends. Last weekend, he asked students and faculty to join him for an invitational tournament, which he dubbed the Teddy Masters. “The entire golf team went out and played a tournament,” he said. “I’m hoping that I can do this every year. I hope it will be a tradition.”

“Alex’s passion for the game is unrivaled,” said Head Coach Bart McMann, “and his unique perspective on golf course architecture has been displayed in the innovative and creative course layout of Teddy National.”

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