Designer: Jeremy Blaylock
Firm / Speed: Med-Firm / Med-Fast
Notes: This is one impressive piece of property. The view is so expansive on some holes that I actually ran into some occasional lag on the PS4.
The sculpting is great, as expected, and the fairways twist and turn between pot bunkers and various other hazards. Add in a good amount of elevation change, and you may miss your fair share of fairways if you choose to hit driver off of every tee. The greens are quite receptive, though, and give you an opportunity for recovery should you miss the fairway.
When ranking Jeremy’s courses, I still think Harbor Island has more memorable hole designs, but the views are great here and this one is high on the list. It should make for a good tournament.
Designer: Adam Hill
Firm / Speed: Firm / Fast (187)
Notes: This is the first course I have reviewed by Adam Hill, but I do recognize some of the course names in his library, several of which are in my list to play. Based on this design, I am looking forward to playing the rest.
This one comes oh so close to really pulling off a good firm and fast playing experience, and true Links experience to boot. It just narrowly misses in a couple of areas, though. First are the fairways. I love the use of central hazards, and I think the spirit of these holes is great. The overall fairways need to be wider, though, to really replicate a Links experience. These are fairly narrow landing areas to start, and then adding central hazards makes for small chutes to aim for, and almost always at the place where a standard Driver would land in the game.
Second are the approach shots, which demonstrate a wonderful use of angles to complicate approaches. The 2nd hole, I believe, was one of the best examples. This was a reachable par 5 with a diagonal green, and OB encroaching on the back left edge. Very reminiscent of the Road Hole, albeit it at a less demanding distance. I also liked the idea of fairways sloping into each green, promoting a run-up shot. Unfortunately, the fairway physics of TGC don’t support this style well, and almost all shots are directed to the rough behind the green. The generous back pin placements and gently sloping greens actually hurt in this case, as a chip in from the back of the green becomes quite easy. I’m guessing a softer setup would support these run-up approach shots better and make for a very fun round, but the effect is lost a bit with the tournament settings.
Visually, the course really shines, and shows great attention to detail. The railroad track, complete with yardage markers as “signal” signs (I think) was very cool, and I like the way it weaved through the course as an obstacle. A very good effort, this one.
Designer: Bryan Boomer
Firm / Speed: Med / Fast (173)
Notes: This course was one of the earlier releases in the Delta theme. Despite a valiant effort by Bryan to cover the natural areas of the course with planting, there is still an abundance of bright white sandy areas to the course. This may be more a preference of mine than others, but I think the Delta courses look better when most of the white sandy areas are covered with heavy rough to give a more lush green look. I think that would have worked well here, because the rolling fairways and nicely shaped greens give all of the green parts of this course a great look.
The designs of the holes match the subtlety of the rolling fairways and greens. Nothing is too over the top, and everything about the course is very believable and playable. Tee to green it plays quite straightforward, although the rolling fairways and just a moderate amount of elevation change make it challenging to dial in shots next to the pin. The greens are also moderately sloped, not too severe, but more than enough to cost a few strokes. Medium to long putts here are quite difficult to make, so close approach shots are a must if you hope to score low.
I’m sure there will be some players who will put up some low numbers here, but I really enjoy the subtle challenge of the course for the regular player.
Designer: Henrik Lundqvist
Firm / Speed: Med – Med-Fast (164)
Notes: This is the first course I have played by Henrik Sundqvist, while two of his other courses, The Narrows at Kilraine and Mahogony National have been on my list to play for some time. To be honest, I didn’t even know who the designer was when I teed off. As the round progressed, I could have sworn I was playing a course by Dario Logan. The way that each tee shot and approach shot are framed for the perfect view is very reminiscent of Dario’s work in all of his courses, but Loa Pali more specifically.
If I could make the Loa Pali comparison one more time, it’s amazing how both courses are done in the Tropical theme, but look entirely different. The use of heavy rough to cover all of the natural sandy areas in the theme is a smart move for a jungle/tropical type of course, and the planting, ground cover textures, and extra details are all superb.
A beautiful course would be wasted with bad holes, and thankfully this one does not disappoint in that regard. Each tee shot gave a number of options to allow the player to choose how aggressive to be, and often presented one or more safer options with wide landing areas. Occasionally a hole would be mixed in the really forced a tough tee shot on the aggressive line, or a very tough approach if the conservative line was chosen. This is done on only a few holes, though, so it is a nice challenge without being overdone. The only misstep I would point out on the entire course is the 13th hole, which really did not fit with the rest of the course. The awkward tee shot and bunker splitting the fairway in two was more the stuff of video games than of the ultra-realistic holes on the rest of the course.
This was a pleasant surprise, and I’m happy to add another designer on my list to watch.
Designer: Rich Banker
Firm / Speed: Med / Med-Fast
Guest review by scampi00:
The most noticeable thing about Gator Hole right off the bat is that the course itself plays above the hazards that surrounds it. A good portion of the water and bunkers here sit well below fairway level and will require a taxing shot to escape should the ball find the bunker.
The course itself is well sculpted and pleasing enough to the eye with a fairly consistent band of even rough circling the fairways. The landings themselves are easy and golfers shouldn’t find any problem posting a low score.
The hole layout itself is straight forward enough without being boring, although there’s nothing overly imaginative out on the course. The signature hole on the course has to be the Par 3 17th with a banked green bordered on the front by rotting logs with a dangerously tucked pin at the front. Luckily enough with the soft green, birdies can still be had here.
Overall, the course plays well and is pleasant enough to look at while posting what should be a low score.
Designer: Mikael Thunberg
Firm / Speed: Med / Med-Fast
Guest Review by Dean Lowden:
Having played Vallentuna Golfklubb and Zewina Golf Club from this designer I teed up on the course expecting to be impressed, and Mikael certainly didn’t let me down.
Some of the areas on the outskirts of the course look a bit bare when you occasionally catch a glimpse of them but visually it is pretty much impossible to fault the course itself in any way. Everything is sculpted to perfection, with the bunkers looking particularly effective, and this is complimented by great use of plants, rocks etc to bring the course to life. The short par 3 6th which is neatly framed by trees on either side of the tee was just one of many highlights.
Of course a great looking course is worthless if it’s not actually any fun to play, fortunately however Gewella has the hole design to match its stunning visuals. Dog-legs and a host of opportunities to take on some risk/reward shots ensure that you can’t just switch off your brain and hit a driver on every hole and, whilst I wouldn’t describe the course as difficult, it never felt like birdies where a given either.
For me this only confirms Mikael Thunberg’s place as one of the game’s best designers.
Favorite Venue of the Week: Kipahulu Reserve
This was shaping up to be a tight race, with the nod probably going to McKee McGrodo, until the last round I played to finish up TGC Tours This Week. Kipahulu Reserve takes the honors, and will find a home very high up on the Top 100 list for it’s debut. This also marks my first CC selection for favorite venue.
Ragefest of the Week: Shougleith Tournament Links
It’s a relatively easy week across the board, so the Ragefest designation for Shougleith doesn’t necessarily mean a whole lot. The front to back sloped firm greens might cause an occasionally moment of seeing red, but for the most part it will be fairly docile.
Birdiefest of the Week: Pick ’em
I couldn’t decide on this one. The competition was too close. I think you could make an argument for any course besides Shougleith that it might play on the easy side. None stick out as being so easy as to earn an automatic Birdiefest, though. I think we will see scores for a number of tournaments vary from easy to moderate based on wind conditions.
Special Thanks: scampi00 and Dean Lowden
It was a busy week for me, so I knew it would be tough getting through every review for the week. I am certain it would be the last, either. If you would like to be considered for upcoming guest reviews, let me know here.