Designer: Patrick Yates
Firm / Speed: Firm / Fast
Notes: I will consider this Patrick’s follow-up to University Links, because I’m not really sure if he released other courses in between or not. I have never reviewed University Links, but if you haven’t played it yet, it should be high on your list to play.
This course takes all that University Links did well, combines it with the newer GNCD tools, and the result is one of the best fictional courses in the game, as well as one of the best firm and fast playing experiences in the game. The holes are very well-designed, and the combination of shorter holes and multiple pathways allows for a wide variety of ways to attack the hole.
If you choose to lay back off the tee for a better angle into the green, for example, you will still have a reasonable approach shot in, rather than the 200+ yard punishment offered by a lot of courses. In at least the Thursday edition, the pins are generously in the back of the green to allow for runout on the firm greens, but the greens are also designed to hold shots rather than reject them.
As good as the course plays, it looks even better. The truck on the first hole is a nice touch, and the visuals are great with an excellent choice of texture colors, and some of the best looking sand dune coastline created so far. If spending a long time on each detail of the course produces a result like this, then I will anxiously await Patrick’s next release in, oh, Fall 2016?
Designer: Antonio Scarpacci
Firm / Speed: Firm / Med-Fast
Notes: I love the idea of this course, with the wide fairways, large greens, and well-placed hazards and mounds to present a variety of results and ways to play each hole. I played the (THU) Tour version of the course, so I assume the regular version plays a little slower and softer. If that is the case, I anticipate that it will be a truly enjoyable round for a lot of players.
When analyzing the Tour version, though, this one just becomes a bit too unwieldy in high wind conditions, and much too predictable. A tailwind is death here, because the front of most greens, including the fairway leading into the green, is sloped from front to back. It’s impossible to land the ball short enough to keep a ball on the green, and the front to back slope kicks every ball so hard to the back of the green. With my foursome of ghost balls, there were at least a dozen holes where all 4 approach shots found the rough behind the green.
Most pins were modestly placed at the back of the green, but that was not enough to help. What resulted were short and makeable chips or flops on almost every hole, completely sucking the variety out of the course.
Again, all of the conditions are here to make this one of the very best courses in the game, and perhaps with some practice I could master the approach shots here (or at last get more favorable winds), but the automatic kick to the back of the green is currently holding the Tour version back. The regular version, though, should be on everyone’s to-play list, no question.
Designer: Wayne Adams
Firm / Speed: Soft / Med-Fast
Notes: Any review here has to start with the most obvious feature, which is the castle. It’s a nicely done feature, because it is far enough out of play where you just see the structure and not any details, and also because it surprisingly does not seem out of place. There is a lot of nicely done wall work around the course, as well.
One another unique thing that sticks out to me is the work with retaining walls around water. I think the water hazards here get closer to the greens and fairways than I have seen on any other course. This comes with the occasional jaggy green edge, of course, but for the most part each instance fits nicely with the course.
The holes are routed here between wide open terrain, and more narrow tree-lined corridors, and the transition between the two is generally smooth. I found the wide open holes to be vastly superior to the tree-lined holes, though. The creativity (but playability) of the wide open holes matched the creativity of the scenery, while the narrow holes too often relied on shallow greens that did not afford an opportunity to hold any approach shots.
The mixed bag of holes hurts the overall standing of this course a bit, but the good holes here are among the upper tier in quality and definitely worth a play.
Designer: Lez Marwick
Firm / Speed: Med-Soft / Med-Fast (165)
Notes: A very realistic feeling and playing course, with an emphasis on risk-reward shots. Risk-reward shots are most common on par 5’s and short par 4’s, so you can expect a number of them on this course. As you might also expect, playing safe on these holes can often result in a birdie that is as easy, if not easier, then when attempting the risky shot. Expect to be shooting for a low number on this course.
Other than water hazards that threaten the risky shots, the only protection for this course is the greens. Many pins are perched on top of small mounds, or precariously next to slopes that will carry your ball far away from the hole. In some cases, these green designs don’t quite match the realistic feel of the course, but in most cases it’s necessary to provide a challenge in TGC. The green slopes also serve a purpose on some of the par 5 holes, where a long 2nd shot in can often end up in a 40-50 foot breaking putt, making a lay-up the wiser choice.
Aesthetically, everything looks nice, from the planting to the bunkers, giving the course a pleasant realistic feel. If you want to have a casual round around the course, this one is a nice choice. If you are playing a tournament here, though, pin your ears back and watch out for the water, because you are going to need to go low.
Designer: Trey Coursey
Firm / Speed: Med / Fast
Notes: This is as traditional parkland country club as they come. The flashed up circular bunkers may lack for creativity, but they certainly catch the eye. The rolling fairways generally feature slight doglegs, bringing trees and fairway slopes into play and making the ideal approach angle difficult to obtain.
While the yardage of the course isn’t that long at 7100 yards, there are plenty of long approach shots and brutal par 3’s here. Add in some severely sloping greens, and this course is a tough test. The 18th hole, in particular, is diabolical.
I’m a big fan of the architect, Perry Maxwell, and I enjoy a good parkland course from time to time, but I feel like this course blends in to the country club mold a bit, and doesn’t particular stick out as an interesting design. It gets the job done as an occasional major stop, though, and should serve that purpose well in TGC as well.
For Trey, I congratulate him on a job well done in recreating the course. If I had one minor complaint, though, it would be the lack of surrounding planting/terrain around the perimeter of the course. The abrupt end of all trees does not negatively affect play in any way, but it does take just a little bit away from the feeling of authenticity.
Favorite Venue of the Week: Tye Dunes
After several weeks of picking either the PGA or Euro course as my favorite venue of the week, I thought this week might end the streak. This isn’t to take anything away from the Web or CC, who have played a number of good courses during that time, and I think Web has a good one in Westmorland this week. Tye Dunes is just too good, though. You will see shortly in my upcoming Top 100 list that it made quite an impression on me.
Anger-Inducing of the Week: Spectacle Island Links (Tour)