TGC Tours This Week: 03/28 – 04/02

PGA Tour: Shell Houston Open

Golf Club of Houston Tour

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Designer: William Bradford

Theme: Rustic

Firm / Speed: Med / Fast

Version Reviewed: Regular

 

Notes: Each year the Shell Houston Open generally gets lost in the shuffle of the peak of the basketball season, as least when it comes to my viewership, so my familiarity with the course is rather low. I know that efforts are made by the grounds crew to present a very Augusta-like experience, with lots of green grass and fairway runoffs near the greens. This one certainly has those features.

 

The shaping around the greens is what stands out to me the most. The interior of the greens do not seem to severely sloped, but finding the correct path in to the green can be complicated by false fronts, and runoffs either to the sides of behind the green. It’s a good moderate challenge, while feeling very realistic and fair.

 

The fairways here are also quite spacious compared to the hardest TGC venues. The strategic use of bunkers tempts you to take an aggressive line, but solid conservative play will not hurt you here.

 

Visually, the course looks very nice despite a lack of any eye-popping natural features. The planting is appropriately done to provide nice scenery without overpowering the hole features, and the areas of pine straw look true to the real course. Much like Augusta, the grass is mown directly into the water. It is a tough look to replicate in TGC, but handled quite well here.

 

There just isn’t a whole lot here to make the course stick out, but that doesn’t hurt the experience at all. It’s a very solid and enjoyable round, never feeling too easy or frustratingly hard.

 

 

European Tour: Romeo y Julieta Championship

Merion East – Ardmore, PA

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Designer: Craig LeVasseur

Theme: Boreal

Firm / Speed: Med / Med-Fast

 

Notes: Merion is acre for acre one of the toughest little courses in the US. It doesn’t pack quite the same bite in TGC, but there are still some pitfalls to avoid. The first is the long par 3’s, which is one of the course’s main defenses. Pars on holes 3, 9, and 17 are all great scores… take them and run. Next, avoid disaster on the 5th green. Distance control is the main key, and whatever you do, do not get stuck above the hole. That’s an important note for all of the holes in general. Stay below the hole and you should have a good chance to score well.

 

Perhaps a max firm version will provide a challenge equal to the real life counterpart? Only time will tell.

 

Web.com Tour: Chitimacha Louisiana Open

Spyglass Hill 2015

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Designer: T. Yeltzman

Theme: Delta

Firm / Speed: Med / Med-Fast

Version Reviewed: 2015

 

Notes: Another great real course from yeltzman. Some tricky greens, yet the right speed to make them very playable. And you know it’s the genuine thing, because I felt the much talked about letdown when leaving the coastal holes to head inland! Not really, though, I found the inland holes quite enjoyable.

 

Challenge Circuit: Stormin’ Norman’s Desert Challenge

Red Rock National

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Designer: Nick Weisgerber

Theme: Desert

Firm / Speed: Med / Med-Fast

Version Reviewed: Regular

 

Notes: This course does a number of things exceptionally well. It takes rough desert terrain, and runs very smooth and lush holes through it. I think this is the dream of every desert resort owner. It also uses very straightforward and subtle holes in some places, especially early in the round, and makes excellent use of med-firm conditions.

 

Later in the round, many of the holes give you the opportunity to use large slopes on the green to feed the ball to the hole, which is always fun to play, and it’s done very well here. Despite the fact that the subtle holes and more sloped holes both work very well and are excellently done, this doesn’t really make for a cohesive 18 hole experience. Particularly late in the round, where several holes go steeply uphill in order to set up grand views of the course coming back downhill, it feels somewhat like a different course than the beginning of the round.

 

True Sim Tour: Shell Houston Open

Golf Club of Houston Tour

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Designer: William Bradford

Theme: Rustic

Firm / Speed: Med / Fast

Version Reviewed: Regular

 

Notes: The regular version of this course had fairly minimal interior contours to the greens, and very straightforward and fair hole designs. I don’t know what, if any changes, will be present for the tournament, but this course should be a nice fit for the TST and a good host this week.

 

True Sim Tour: First Tee Houston Open

Old Beaver Creek

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Designers: Bill Rader & Brian Jeffords

Theme: Boreal

Firm / Speed: Med / Med

 

Notes: When this course was released in 2014, it was a standard setter for not only the Boreal theme, but for the GNCD and course creation itself. Now in 2016, this course still stands up to the best, which is a testament to the great hole designs and sharp planting and sculpting work. This course will be challenging on most days, but capable of yielding some lower scores to smartly executed rounds in favorable conditions. In other words, a great tournament venue. The 18th hole remains one of the more memorable closing holes and par 5’s in the game.

 

Favorite Venue of the Week: Merion East

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Did I just select my own course for favorite venue of the week? I did. There is a reason I selected this course as my first RCR attempt. I just like the course that much.

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