TGC Tours This Week: 02/29 – 03/05

PGA Tour: WGC – Cadillac Championship

Trump National Doral


doral 1


Designer: Colin J. Watt

Theme: Countryside

Firm / Speed: Med / Fast (187)


Notes: I remember this course from last year’s WGC – Cadillac, and it was a great host for the tournament. The Countryside theme was a bit of a stretch for a course like Doral, but it was a valiant effort given the tools that were available at the time.


Playing this course again a year later, it still holds up surprisingly well. Despite the cleverly remade holes by Gil Hanse, the greens are really what gives this course it’s character. I can’t speak to how accurate they are in comparison to the real course, but just from a TGC perspective, they play great and provide just enough challenge.


One thing remains painfully obvious, though. This course needs to be remade in the Tropical theme so badly it’s not even funny. So, anyone know where Colin is these days? If so, page him… we need a Tropical Doral!


PGA Tour: Berckmans Place Classic

Purgatory Golf Club




Designer: Steve Pope

Theme: Countryside

Firm / Speed: Med / Fast (182)


Notes: I was about to give Steve all of the credit for the great hole designs here, but then I read his description of the course being a sort of half tribute, half replica of the real Purgatory Golf Club in Indiana. I don’t know how closely the course follows, so I don’t know how much credit to give Steve, but this is one heck of a design.


The wide open design of the course shows off the Countryside theme very well, and is the type of course I think the theme was intended for. The bunkers designs are outstanding and do a perfect job of framing each hole.


The greens will be the hot topic here, as they have all kinds of big slopes and feature a colorful array of grid colors. They run fast at 182, but hold approach shots with medium firmness settings. Personally, I find the big green slopes to be a ton of fun to play. Finding the right area of the green will feed your ball to the pin, while finding the wrong area will leave you an interesting, but not necessarily impossible up and down.


It’s a good test but so much fun to play. I think the Tours will have a good and exciting tournament here.


European Tour: Africa Open

The Copse @ Malkie Coast



Designer: Ola Ericsson

Theme: Highlands

Firm / Speed: Med / Fast (187)


Notes: The first thing that comes to mind when teeing off here is that all designers should take a look at the way that the plot is smoothed out into realistic looking hills and mounds, even in areas where there are no golf holes. It immediately places you in an environment that feels real, as opposed to an auto-generated GNCD plot.


The course design here is interesting and unique. With somewhat sparse planting and wide holes that have multiple paths to play on, the course immediately makes you start planning your routes to each green. The use of carefully placed trees, doglegs and bends, and abundant elevation change calls for careful calculation, though, or you will find yourself in trouble right away.


The greens are only moderately severe at best, but smartly designed and ultra-slick, so you must approach with caution. It’s a course where a smart approach and patient play will reward you with a nice score, while coming in on autopilot will be more punishing than on the average course. Tour: BB King Memorial

Whonnock Lake Golf Club (Black Diamond)



Designer: Andre Quenneville

Theme: Swiss

Firm / Speed: Firm / Fast (183)


Notes: (Disclaimer: This review is for the Black Diamond version of the course. I do not know how the tour versions play in comparison.)


It becomes a bit hard to rate Andre’s courses when comparing them against each other. This one sticks out for it’s visuals, though, and it’s good to see a release in the relatively underused Swiss theme. It’s hard to top courses like The Timberwolf and Kahiko Beach, but this one really surprised and I thought holds its own visually against those courses. It is most definitely among Andre’s best.


I went in to this round fully aware that I was playing the Black Diamond version and that I would be in for a challenge, but I did not expect the disaster of a round and over par finish that I ended up with. I’m sure in subsequent rounds, and a with bit more patience, I could easily improve my score. It’s hard for me to deny, though, that this one combines just a few too many tricks for me.


Off of the tee, most driver shots are severely challenged by hazards, and the safer play is often to club down. The greens are firm and have some front to back kick to them, making it very hard to hold greens. It’s no easy chip-in from the back of the green, either, as most pins are on side slopes. There are many large slopes and tiers to the green, as well, that can take an approach that barely misses its target some 50+ feet away from the hole.


When you combine all of those elements together, it’s clear that this course is meant to challenge video gamers, not to mimic a real life experience. Take away one or two tricks from the above, and I think this one is a real winner for all levels of play. As it stands, the Black Diamond is definitely for experts only.


Challenge Circuit: 

“Steamin” Willie Beamen Shark Charity Classic

The Course at Hiwassee Hills



Designer: Todd Driver

Theme: Rustic

Firm / Speed: Med / Med-Fast (183)


Notes: I’m a little baffled at the rating of this course hanging around in the mid-7’s. It looks great and plays great, so I’m not sure where others are finding fault with the course.


The strongest aspect of the course is the looks. The setting is a parkland-type feel, sometimes playing through open terrain surrounded by water, and other times playing through gently sloped and tree-lined corridors. The mulch around the trees and the excellent but not overused planting of bushes make the course look great, realistic, and just a little different than a lot of courses. When you add in the misty overcast look, it creates a unique feeling round, which is difficult to accomplish even with the increased options available in the GNCD.


Good looking courses that are paired with excellent designs are hard to come by, but this one executes flawlessly. Each hole is interesting, provides a thoughtful path to each hole, and greens that require more than just any old approach shot, but are still fair and receptive. I almost think these greens are soft despite being listed as medium, which is another good change of pace. The now-standard med / med-fast gets a little monotonous, despite being a very good setting overall. This is a high mark in Todd’s very accomplished list of designs.


True Sim Tour: WGC – Cadillac Championship

Trump National Doral


doral 3


Designer: Colin J. Watt

Theme: Countryside

Firm / Speed: Med / Fast (187)


Notes: The course is very playable, and the greens hold well. That’s good, because the slick, challenging greens will require precise approach shots and putts coming from the correct side of the hole. I expect a good tournament here.


Also, did I mention that this course needs to be flipped to Tropical already?


True Sim Tour: International Players Open

The Players Club, Conklin, NY




Designer: Randy Bellomio

Theme: Boreal

Firm / Speed: Med / Med-Fast (163)


Notes: If you wouldn’t have told me this course was in New York, I probably still would have said that the course has the feel of a Westchester Country Club. In that regard, this one definitely nailed the New York parkland look and feel, which is a little rockier and hillier than Midwest parkland courses. This is what I think it at least, based on appearances. I’ll let you know after I actually play a New York course whether or not my description was accurate.


However you want to classify it, this course looks like a finely manicured club, with nice mow lines and excellent color choices. The one big letdown visually, though, is the use of similar, cloned trees in groups, rather than varying up the planting. It’s a quick way to suck the realism out of a course.


Strategically, it’s a shorter course that uses angles and doglegs to protect against the bombers. The greens are classically sloped back to front and receptive to shots, but challenging enough to make putting an adventure. It’s just a solid, believable, and playable real course rendition.


Favorite Venue of the Week: Purgatory Golf Club



Narrowly edges out Hiwassee Hills and Malkie Coast. The hole designs here were just too much fun to play. It’s another strong week on tours.


Ragefest of the Week: Whonnock Lake

This is a maybe, as I’m not 100% sure how the other versions play. It shouldn’t be a huge ragefest, though. Maybe just a tiny one. A close runner-up could be The Players Club, as I found my first round in TST to be one of my worst to date.


Birdiefest of the Week: Trump National Doral

And in a landslide! Any time you shoot a 59 in round and don’t crack the top 20, you fully understand and appreciate the Birdiefest classification.

1 Comment

  1. Klay Curry on March 4, 2016 at 12:46 pm

    Re. the rating for Hiwassee Hills – I don’t know if it’s definitely true but I’m assuming that even if you don’t alter the default rating at the end of the round, then this rating (6 or 7?) is still registered. Hence one of the reasons why I’ve never really paid too much attention to course ratings anyway.

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