Designer: Bryan Boomer
Firm / Speed: Med / Fast (187)
Notes: I recently reviewed another Delta course by Bryan, Arctic Curse, which was released earlier than the latest version of Horned Viper was. I noted that Arctic Curse, while heavily planted, still had an abundance of white sandy areas that were just kind of an eyesore. Horned Viper, on the other hand, used overcast lighting to darken things up in the Tour A version I played, which definitely helped. Regardless of the lighting, though, this one is much better visually and a great job of using the Delta theme. The use of additional mulch-type textures and abundant use of rocks near water’s edge give this one a look of its own. It’s not so much the ultra-realistic look of a course like The Breakers, but more like a fantasy-realistic combo. I don’t know if that makes sense, but trust me, it’s a good thing.
I played the Tour version of the course to get a feel for what is in store for TGC tours, and I can confirm that this is a PGA-level course. Strategically placed trees tighten each drive and approach shot, and large yellow and red slopes on the greens compartmentalize each one into sections, with it being very difficult to find the correct section. There is little margin for error or variety on a lot of holes, but a good number of short par 4’s break up the toughest stretches.
If you aren’t playing on tours, and you aren’t one punishment on the course, then stick to the easier versions of the course and you should have a good time.
Designer: Adam Benjamin
Firm / Speed: Med / Fast (187)
Notes: It was long ago established that Adam arguably creates the best, most realistic, and most stunning environments for a course. You expect to be exhilarated when you play one of his courses, and if you are designer, demoralized by how much better he is than you are. That is why it was such a shock to see how bad this course looked!
Just kidding, this course is amazing, as expected.
So how does the course play? The hole designs are quite straightforward, with the exception of some of the short and potentially drivable par 4’s. There are a few long par 5’s and a handful of long par 4’s in the 7300 yard routing, but enough short holes and reachable par 5’s to offer some good scoring chances. With that said, there aren’t really many holes that stick out as memorable playing experiences, so the strength of the course mostly rests on its visuals.
Your scoring will depend on how well you handle the fast (187) greens, and how close you can place your approach shots near pins where the green is designed to deflect shots away. I don’t know what is in store for the PGA players in TGC Tours, but for the regular player, this should be just one stop on your full “More by Designer Tour” of Adam’s library.
Designer: Todd Driver
Firm / Speed: Med / Med-Fast (161)
Notes: This is billed as the more friendly of the two Savage Gulf courses, but the Ocean course is no pushover. The greens can be a bit tricky on some holes, and downright hard on other holes. Other than a few tee shots that require caution, however, the holes do play fairly generously to start, and require a precise approach shot if you want to put up a low number.
With the exception of a few trips to water’s edge, the front 9 starts off a little slow. The Tropical theme, sad to say, can get a little monotonous and have a same-y feeling between courses. It takes a vision and laser-like focus to create a unique round in Tropical, and this one doesn’t really have it on the front 9, which leads to a somewhat bland experience on the in-land holes.
Thankfully, I found the back 9 much more interesting, especially when comparing in-land holes. Overall, compared to some of the other Tropical options available, this one blends into the crowd just a little too much. As a standalone course, though, it’s a solid production from Mr. Driver and a good, fair, moderate challenge.
Designer: Ola Ericcson
Firm / Speed: Med / Med (156)
Notes: This course has a lot of character to it, which is a term that I don’t often use to describe a course. Demon Host features a lot of unique holes, including some holes sharing the same fairways and greens, and is just a lot of fun to play. The short par 4’s and reachable par 5’s make sense and offer more than one logical way to play the hole, which is all you can ask for in short holes. The regular holes feature wide fairways with central hazards, another design trait that I enjoy. This again offers more than one route to the green, and there isn’t always one choice that makes more sense than all of the others.
The greens have some occasional really tricky pins, but not so many that you feel you are being punished. There are enough undulations to make for a moderate challenge with the putter, but well-placed approach shots should result in a lot of one-putts.
Your experience at the course will depend on which setup you are playing. I played the Thursday version, which features the easiest playing conditions, and it was reflected in my score. I see the potential difficulties of a firm and fast setup, though, so those playing in tournament conditions should not get too comfortable.
Visually, the course cannot stand up to some of the newer desert courses, but it’s nicely done with good sculpting and great texture choices. The fun factor of the course is what makes it most memorable, though, and is what will give it a nice spot in the course rankings.
Designer: Craig LeVasseur
Firm / Speed: Med / Fast (187)
Guest Review by Andre Quenneville:
Last year, Craig stunned us with an almost perfect RCR in Magnolia (Augusta) National. Now, with the new textures at his disposal (it was almost like HB said “here Craig, this is what you should need to make Magnolia even better”), Magnolia National 2016 is a masterpiece. It looks exactly how it should looks, with each flower, tree and break in the green agonizingly recreated. How Craig was able to get such a spot on recreation still baffles me. My favorite view is the second shot on 11…it looks just as it would on TV.
It looks just fantastic, but how does it play? When we think of the Masters, we think of a tough challenging course. I would say that the original Magnolia National 2016 doesn’t quite capture the difficulty it should, but the Max Firm editions definitely do. Not everyone likes firm/fast, but with Magnolia, it is essential. You can’t just hunt pins here and expect to score well. Play smart, and if you are putting well, you can tame this beast.
If you are living under a rock or just picked this game up, Magnolia National 2016 is a must play and my #2 favorite course in the entire game.
Designer: Craig LeVasseur
Firm / Speed: Firm / Med-Fast
Guest Review by Clay Schlegel:
As much as players and pundits enjoyed complaining about Chambers Bay during the 2015 US Open, there is absolutely no reason to complain about this recreation. The moment you hit the first tee of this course, you immediately feel like you are gazing out into Puget Sound. It is tough to put into words how incredibly well done this course is, but I will try my best.
From the signature 15th hole with its lone tree to its couple of short and driveable par-4 holes and all of the bunkers in between, this course provides the player with an abundance of ways to play the course. Many shots will challenge your imagination which makes the course extremely rewarding when you hit a great shot. One of the holes that really excels at this is the short and driveable par-4 12th hole with the possibility of your drive roller-coastering its way close to the hole. Undulations are aplenty on this course and you’ll need to know where to hit the ball. The slopes can be the difference between a birdie and a bogey.
One of the things I really love about this course is how different it plays depending on the winds. Good luck hitting the fairway on the 14th if you have a strong headwind. In fact, good luck with the course as a hole with strong winds of any kind. Low winds will provide you with some really good scoring opportunities on most of the course but high winds will put you in misery if you are not careful.
The original release of this course was really well done but the updated textures for the 2016 version absolutely put this recreation over the top. It is safe to say that this is one of my favorite courses, real or fictional, to play in this game.
Designer: Wes Hartman
Firm / Speed: Med / Med-Fast (162)
Version Played: TST Pin A
Notes: By the designer’s description, this course was intended for no-aids play on the True Sim Tour. This is very much apparent in the moderate settings and green designs. The greens are by no means flat or uninteresting, but they do provide generous pin locations and soft enough greens to have a little target practice when you have the scout cam turned on.
The fairways are similarly generous, although cleverly designed to entice you into some risky bunker carries, which should be made more difficult with no scout cam.
There is nothing out of the ordinary here to set it apart too much from the rest of the Boreal crowd, but this latest version does take advantage of the custom textures to apply a deeper, darker blue-green color to the fairways and rough, which I have to say looks really good.
For its purposes of True Sim play, this should be a nice moderately easy course. If you aren’t a True Sim player, I would say that only beginners (or those needing a major confidence boost) would have the best experience around this track.
Favorite Venue of the Week: Promenade Golf Club
As tempting as it is to choose Magnolia or Chambers Bay here, the Promenade course is just another spectacular creation from Adam Benjamin to add to his portfolio.
Ragefest of the Week: Horned Viper
Chambers Bay was a potential pick here, as it is hard enough with all aids on, but the match play format makes things a little more tolerable. Magnolia also has induced some rage already. Horned Viper gets the nod, though, as it is a brutally tough course. You won’t be hearing any “too easy” complaints this week, I would think.
Birdiefest of the Week: Yuchi Valley
Demon Host will have some easy conditions at least in round one, so that is a close second for the Birdiefest award. Yuchi Valley is a pushover, though, even with no aids, so it should be a good week for some folks to get introduced to True Sim golf.