First off, this is in no way a “complaining” post about course selection. I think it is handled really well and is a thankless job. Keep up the good work!
We are into the second week of Season 2 here at TGCTours and I am astounded at how good people have gotten at this game. To even stand a chance now on the elite tours (Euro and PGA) you need at least two out of 4 sub 60 rounds. The first PGA tour event at Sugar Hills (which was an entry into the US Open design competition earlier this year), got DESTROYED. With the winning score over -50…and things are looking like the same in week 2 (on my poor little Nighthawk Canyon course, which I THOUGHT I set up to play a bit tougher), I’ve been thinking alot about course difficulty preferences. I average -7 to -9 every event…but that still puts me at least 20 strokes back of the leaders at the end of the tournament. I regularly see posts where players are “disappointed” with -40 for the tournament. That just doesn’t seem right.
As someone who helped with course selection in Season 1 on the PGA tour, selecting course (especially on the upper two tiers) is extremely difficult. You want to pick a course that challenges golfers, but this is a game; You want tour members to enjoy playing it as well. As someone with 15 designed courses under his belt (about half of them have been used on tour)..there are some limited ways you can have your course “protect par” against the elite golfers.
- Wind- you can’t control this, but a moderate-strong wind (10-16mph) can turn any course into a more challenging one. However, every time the wind is strong, there are complaints. The new patch seems to have fixed this, but in my opinion, the winds are too low now! Please HB, somehow let us set our own tournament winds so we can mix things up a bit more!
- Green firmness- This is a tough one. Medium firmness just isn’t cutting it in my opinion. It is very easy to go pin hunting on almost every hole with this type of firmness. However, if this is dialed up even a little bit, it feels like the greens are concrete. We learned last season that “firm-fast” = not fun. However, I think a combination of softer fairways, medium firm to firm greens and large greens to hold shots may be the recipe here. You won’t be able to pin hunt every hole, but if you play smart, you can have 15-20 footers for birdie consistently if you play it shorter and run it up.
- Tucking pins- I think this is a technique that can be used, but not on every hole all the time. Tucking a pin behind a bunker where the green is only 6 yards wide and having to hit a 3 iron..it’s not enjoyable. Again, bigger greens can help here.
- Breaks- Many of you know that some of my earlier courses feature greens with tough breaks. However, all my greens are designed for golfers that take time to learn them (just like in real golf). There are easy putts out there. Make your greens tough…just don’t put the holes on slopes :).
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how a course is going to play. We have an excellent community, but people will complain…and that’s ok. It’s too easy, it’s too hard, too firm, too soft, etc. As much as I would love to see it, I have come to expect that we will not see winning scores of less than -30 with aids on…and if we do, it’s probably because the course went way overboard with one of the elements listed above..making rounds not as enjoyable. I do think that courses selected can be a bit tougher, and there are ways to do it as a designer…. but in moderation. -30 to -40 winning score is the sweet spot I would like to see more often. A course that is challenging, but allows you to make some incredible shots and go low when things are going right. If that’s still not high enough, head on over to True-Sim for some more realistic scoring!
What type of difficulty do you prefer? A “birdie-fest” where mid-50s are not just possible, they are commonplace; or “head scratchers” course that walk the fine line between “fair and “unfair” (in many cases stepping over), leaving us scratching our heads? Leave a comment below!