It’s been a rough few weeks at work, and I have a few more ahead still. I picked away at this write-up, however, and still found a way to sneak some rounds in, so enjoy this recap of my last handful of rounds.
Negev Valley – coruler2 – High 3/Low 4
The hardest reviews are for the courses that simply don’t move me one way or the other. I thought this course was headed there, as I just didn’t get a whole lot out of the visuals right away. That’s not to say any of the design or planting is poorly done, it could just simply be that the desert theme isn’t my favorite. Regardless, I can happily report that the hole designs swayed me out of my indifferent zone. The scultping is nicely done throughout, and the course features a tremendous set of greens that are fun to play and offer a great variety of shots. I would return to play multiple rounds just to see what other pins these greens have to offer.
Lieu de Victorie – Chuck Gunsaullus – High 3
This course is like the opposite of Negev Valley. The planting immediately evokes a feeling of a realistic-looking course and environment. On average, the course did a fairly nice job of balancing a course that also plays realistically, mostly due to forgiving openings into the greens, while still offering a challenge for video game golfers. I thought it hit the same note too often, though, with most typical driver landing zones becoming extremely narrow and closely guarded by hazards. Honestly everything about the course is nicely done, but I simply just didn’t have as much fun playing here as I did at Negev.
Ladue CC – Jeremy Mayo – High 4/Low 5
This is a nicely executed parkland theme, especially around the edges. Getting that realistic forest growth look around the hole boundaries is always a challenge, and was pulled off quite well here. The land movement and hole routing makes the course standout, even among MacRaynor-style courses, while the large, interesting, and complex greens really take every round here over the top. There are some really classic and timeless hole designs here, but everything is presented in a fun and quirky package.
The Chastener at Bridgegate – Eric Nesbit – High 3/Low 4
Two things really stand out for me here, one good and one not as much. The bunker designs, and the subsequent sightlines they provide, are really nicely done. Overall this is a great looking course in all respects. The elephant in the room for me, though, from the very first tee, was the wavy fairway and green lines. I will freely admit that I much prefer a straighter edge and more symmetrical style, as the wavy style reminds me both of bad modern golf, and tricked up video game golf with tiny fairways. On the plus side, I found the actual landing zones on many, but not all, of the holes to be quite reasonable. I still found the course a little restricting in terms of options off of the tee, but I do think there are many things to enjoy about a round here.
Arizona Azure – tastegw – Low 4
A good looking course for a desert course, with a realistic and believable environment. The detail work around the course along with the planting gives the course a good sense of place, which can be tough with a desert course. There are some good strategic holes throughout the round, and a good balance of challenge and playability. My only real gripe here would be the abundance of long par 4s and long par 3s, which doesn’t capture as much interest for me as a course with a great variety in hole types.
Sonoma Sands – reebdoog – Solid 4/High 4
The bunker work is the highlight here. The bunkers fit nicely into the surrounding environments on each hole, and are sculpted flawlessly. They also do a great job of framing each shot (along with catching all of my terrible golf shots). The planting is nicely done and only adds to the environment. The hole strategy is solid throughout, but most of all the great variety of holes lengths makes for a fun and memorable round. Some real jaggy edges got introduced around the greens during the port process, which is a shame considering how good everything else looks here.
Appleton Golf Course – Arctic Fury – Solid 4/High 4
This is a coastal course featuring a decent amount of elevation change, which is something of an Arctic fury specialty. No one does this environment better, and in particular the grassy natural areas look very authentic. Of course the scene is loaded with details and numerous creative ways to use trash cans. With that said, I wouldn’t mind seeing this designer branch out and try some different design styles. The front 9 is not bad, but I think the holes really pick up on the back 9. I would recommend, due to the smaller green sizes, maybe dialing back from the default 187 green speeds.
Royal Troon – Yeltzman – Solid 4
I couldn’t get enough of this course during the epic Mickelson-Stenson battle. I played the course a number of times in Rory PGA, and in TGC2. Some of the appeal has worn off, as I find the course takes a number of hoels to warm up. The stretch of 8-11 is a major high point, though, and the finishing stretch is not too bad either. Really just a good course to keep in a links rotation, and a lot of fun to play in high wind. The thing that stuck out to me the most visually was the splined pot bunkers. This has always been needed to allow the fairway to feed into a pot bunker, but now that it’s here it really shows the limitations of the designer and how badly actual pot bunkers are needed in the game,
GC of Houston – William Bradford – High 3/Low 4
I don’t know if I ever bought the idea of this course looking anything like Augusta, but I have to admit that I like the lush green environment against the bright pine straw. I don’t know how true to life it is, but I like the planting going on here and the overall look. Strategically there isn’t a whole lot going on, other than hit it long and straight. There are a least a handful of somewhat diagonal fairways, anyways, to keeps things mildly interesting off of the tee. Otherwise the large slopes on the greens are really the main feature of the course, which I found fairly fun to play. Overall, it’s easy to see why it was a Tour stop, a very tour-like course, for better or worse.
Hopeshire Golf Club – Arcticfury – High 4/Low 5
The details are in the distance here, which is a feature I always love. Designers, use your plot to the fullest! Other than that, I don’t have a ton to say here. The mounding and sculpting look great, and the greens and fairways are receptive and rewarding. The course looks deceptively tough, but it plays a lot easier and makes for a fun round with lots of scoring.
Old Yarbrough – Chuck Thomas – Solid 3
Visually, an excellent looking course. I thought the combination of colors and lighting worked well together, and good sculpting only added to the visuals. My main issue here, which I didn’t pick up on in my early testing, was that the corridors were too narrow. Most of the fairways were too narrow for all but the straightest hitters, especially when they were also surrounded on both sides by water. The narrowness also applied to the greens, where extremely small plateaus once again limited who can excel on the course. I think I’ve documented pretty extensively that my controller sprays shots all over the map (which is something I enjoy), and narrowness like this saps the excitement out of the round with the lack of options.
Coyote Flats – Leo Bailey – High 4
I have to admit, I think I avoided this course for a long time after seeing the bunkers shaped like paws. Having worked in the past at a course with a giant apple bunker, I’ve found that courses with gimmicky bunkers are usually covering up an otherwise boring course. I couldn’t have been more wrong here. The paw bunkers are only on the 18th hole, and the rest of the bunkers are very well done and look great. The greens are huge, with gentle but large undulations to navigate. The course has a ton of width, which can be used to angle in towards pins placed on little fingers of the greens. Really a fun round of golf.