Designer: Brandon Pugh
Firm / Speed: Med / Med-Fast
Notes: The more I play this course, the more it moves up my list. I’ve played Pebble Beach a ton of times virtually over many generations of games, and this version holds it’s own with any, and is rightfully one of the best real courses in the game. The signature holes, 6, 7, 8, 17, and 18, are all uncanny, and even the non-signature holes feel spot on.
The new Tour version will still yield birdies to the best players, especially on the par 5’s, but it definitely lowers the margin for error. Getting stuck on the wrong side of the hole now has some very real consequences, and playing a hole like 17 coming down the stretch should really amp up the nerves.
Designer: T. Yeltzman
Firm / Speed: Firm / Fast
Notes: A fantastic update to an already good course, this one now just barely trails Royal Lytham and Muirfield in Yeltzman’s incredible library of courses. The brown look to the course perfectly matches with the firm and fast settings, and the lighting with the textures makes the course pop much more than before. This course is another example that well-designed holes and greens can handle firm and fast conditions, and are the best, fairest, and most realistic way to make a course challenging. As I stated in my 2015 review, having the correct or preferred angle into the pin is uncommon. Your approach shots are equal parts likely to find a front pot bunker, a back corner of the green, or a nice spot right up next to the pin. Perfectly executed shots are rewarded and are a whole lot of fun when you pull them off.
Designer: Jordan Springer
Firm / Speed: Med-Firm / Fast
Notes: This was a pretty good course to start, and the update made it even a little better. The visuals are what set this one apart, with the nicely created mountains on one side, the coastline on the other, and realistic bumpy links ground in between. The edges and sculpting were really improved and more realistic in this version compared to the original. There are a number of wide open holes on the front 9 with good usage of central hazards and multiple paths, while the back 9 gets a little narrower and challenging. For the most part, other than a handful of holes, the greens and pin placements are capable of handling the firm conditions. There are a few problem holes, though (in Sunday version), where you are faced with landing in hazards short of the green, or running off the back of the green and having a difficult and extreme downhill chip coming back. Taking some risks on the short par 4’s and reachable par 5’s on the front 9 should negate most of the more borderline holes on the back, though, and allow you to minimize any damage.
Designer: Steve Allen
Firm / Speed: Med-Soft / Med-Fast
Notes: The rarely seen Swiss theme these days, this one has a great look with the dusk lighting, and lots of planting with trees and bushes surrounding most holes. I can see a small issue for some people with shadows and perhaps a tiny bit of lag where the planting is heaviest, but I didn’t have too many issues with either. There was an occasional bunker cutting into the fairway, causing strange small patches of fairway along the outer edges of the bunker, and a little bit of smoothing can be done around the fairway to rough and rough to heavy edges. It’s not bad, though, and certainly doesn’t take away from the course. I found the course to play on the easy side, even in 10-15 mph wind. I attribute it to a number of par 5’s and short par 4’s that offer a lot of reward without much risk. A lot of the greens also accept approach shots from almost any angle, so as long as your find the fairway off of the tee, low scoring is possible. There are a handful of tricky greens, though, which can derail your round quickly if you lose focus.
Firm / Speed: Med / Med-Fast
Notes: This version seems very soft after playing the firm setup, and if I’m being honest, I actually wouldn’t mind seeing the TST Tour try to survive 4 rounds in those conditions. Never the less, this version should still provide an intriguing tournament. The conditions are such that plenty of birdies will be available, but the key will be placing approach shots on the correct side of each pin, as the already treacherous downhill and sidehill putts should be compounded with no grid available. Expect the winner here to be the one who is putting uphill for most of the tournament.
Favorite Venue of the Week: Pebble Beach
This was an incredibly tough one, as Birkdale is also an excellent pick for this week. It’s hard to go against Pebble, though, as it’s such an iconic course, not only in real life, but in video game golf as well. Add in the chance to play it at the same time as the pros play it on TV, and it should make for a great week!
With that said, it is a very well-rounded week across each tour, so hopefully it’s an enjoyable week for all!