Geeked on Golf

A Celebration of the People & Places that Make Golf the Greatest Game


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Musings on Greatness

First things first – there is no such thing as objectivity when it comes to assessing the greatness of a golf course.  And objectivity in ranking one golf course’s greatness versus another?  Please.  

Fortunately though when it comes to having good geeky fun with your buddies talking golf courses, objectivity is irrelevant.  What is relevant when having the endless discussions and debates is the standards by which one assesses a course.  The standard matters because it gives context.  There are several standard that my fellow geeks and I like to use:

  • The Memorability Standard – Can you remember every hole on the course the next day?  
  • The 18th Green to 1st Tee Standard – When you walk off the final green, do you want to go right back out?
  • The One Course for the Rest of Your Life Standard – Could you be happy playing just that one course every day for the rest of your life?
  • The 10 Rounds Standard – When comparing courses, how would you split ten rounds among them?

These are all good standards, and provide interesting perspectives on the greatness of courses.  A new standard materialized for me in 2017, and I am now on the hunt for courses that qualify.  

The inspiration for this standard – which I call 108 in 48 – is Prairie Dunes.  I had the good fortune of spending another weekend in Hutchinson this year (thank you Charlie).  Both of my visits to PD have been golf binges.  Around and around we go.  Every time I come off the 18th hole of that course, I want to go right back out.  

My experiences at Prairie Dunes have set the standard in my mind.  The question is, which courses would I want to go around 6 times in 2 days?  What that means to me is, which courses are interesting, challenging and fun enough to stand up to that kind of immersion experience?  Can’t be too hard or I get worn out.  Can’t have weak stretches of holes or I lose attention.  Can’t be too easy or I get bored with the lack of challenge.  And of course, the greens have to be great.  

Prairie Dunes passes the 108 in 48 test with flying colors for me for three reasons:  First, the sequence of holes is packed with variety from a length, straight vs dogleg, and directional perspective.  Second, the greens are, well, you know.  Third, the course is drop dead gorgeous – color contrast, texture, land movement, tree management – it is just the right kind of candy for my eyes.

Of the courses I re-played in 2017, Essex County Club and Maidstone also pass this test, but for different reasons than PD.  Both Essex and Maidstone play through multiple “zones”.  Essex has its brook/wetland zone and its stone hill zone.  Maidstone with its wetland zone and linksland zone.  This gives them both a meandering adventure feel that I find compelling.  Both are outstanding at the level of fine details.

All three of these courses share a peaceful, refined beauty in common that creates a sense of transcendence during the course of a round.  The passage of time melts away.

There are a handful of other courses that meet this standard for me.  There are also quite a few courses that I love dearly and consider favorites that do not.  My list of current 108 in 48 qualifiers is below.

I ask you, which are your 108 in 48ers, and why?


108 in 48ers

SAND HILLS – Mullen, NE

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If you have been to Sand Hills, you know.  Coore & Crenshaw’s modern masterpiece, lovingly cared for by Superintendent Kyle Hegland’s team, is incredibly strong from start to finish.  It is no surprise that it started the revolution that has grown into a second Golden Age.

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ESSEX COUNTY CLUB – Manchester-by-the-Sea, MA

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This Donald Ross course resonated with me from the first play, and repeat visits deepen my love of it.  It doesn’t hurt that, just when I think that Superintendent Eric Richardson’s team can’t make it any better, they prove me wrong, again.

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PRAIRIE DUNES – Hutchinson, KS

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In addition to my thoughts above, I would add that the combination of Perry and Press Maxwell holes adds even more variety to the course, and if there a better set of greens in America, I would love to hear the argument.  Superintendent Jim Campbell’s team presents the course beautifully, and the staff and membership could not be more welcoming.

NATIONAL GOLF LINKS OF AMERICA – Southampton, NY

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Photo by Jon Cavalier

If C.B. Macdonald and Seth Raynor’s attempt to create the ideal golf course falls short of the standard for perfection, it’s not by much.  The routing and strategic design, the variety of hazards, the greens, and the numerous iconic views conspire to create magic.  Caring for such an intricately conceived course is no small feat, and Superintendent William Salinetti’s team does a masterful job.

KINGSLEY CLUB – Kingsley, MI

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Go ahead, call me a homer.  The rollicking ride that Mike DeVries has created has its share of thrills, but is also packed with strategic questions that take repeat plays to answer.  The staff creates the perfect vibe for a golf geek, and our Superintendent Dan Lucas?  Nobody is better.

SHOREACRES – Lake Bluff, IL

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Seth Raynor took what might have been a challenging piece of property to some architects and devised one of the most brilliantly routed golf courses I have ever seen.  The central ravine feature is used brilliantly and provides a wonderful contrast to the bold template features greens.  Superintendent Brian Palmer’s team relentless refines the course and revels in creating firm and fast conditions that accentuate every nuance of Raynor’s creation.

LAWSONIA LINKS – Green Lake, WI

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I’ve said it before, and I will keep saying it – Lawsonia is the most underrated golf course in America.  Attempt to describe the scale of the features created by William Langford & Theodore Moreau in this bucolic setting is pointless.  It must be experienced to be believed.  The quality of conditions that Superintendent Mike Lyons and his crew deliver with modest green fees makes Lawsonia an unbeatable value.

MAIDSTONE CLUB – East Hampton, NY

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In addition to my comments above, it is important to note the brilliance of Coore & Crenshaw’s restoration work on this Willie Park, Jr. gem.  Having visited pre- and post-renovation, there were moments that I could not believe I was playing the same course.  Superintendent John Genovesi’s team continues to push forward with fine tuning that perfectly walks the line between providing excellent playing conditions and allowing the course to have the natural feel intended by the designers.

KITTANSETT CLUB –  Marion, MA

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An argument could be made that this Frederic Hood and William Flynn design is the best flat site course in America, especially after a Gil Hanse restoration.  Strategic challenges abound, and the set of one-shotters are second to none.  Superintendent John Kelly’s team continues to bring out every bit of Kittansett’s unique character.

BALLYNEAL – Holyoke, CO

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Ballyneal is far and away my favorite Tom Doak design.  It is a glorious collection of holes that meander through the Chop Hills.  Birdies do not come easy, but the course doesn’t beat you up either – it strikes the perfect balance.  Jared Kalina’s team knows quite well how to provide fast and firm conditions, and the staff and membership conspire to make it the golfiest club I’ve ever visited.

OLD ELM CLUB – Highland Park, IL

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Another homer alert – I grew up going around Old Elm as a caddie and we were allowed to play every day, which I did.  I loved the course as a kid, but with the progressive restoration back to Harry Colt and Donald Ross’s vision that has been undertaken by GM Kevin Marion, Superintendent Curtis James, Drew Rogers and Dave Zinkand, OE has gone next level.  

SWEETENS COVE – South Pittsburg, TN

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The King-Collins creation is everything that golf should be.  Strategically challenging, visually interesting, and holes punctuated by stellar greens.  Combine the design with the ability to play cross-country golf and it is impossible to get bored going around and around Sweetens.  Need a playing partner?  No worries, Rob and Patrick are always willing to grab their sticks and geeks won’t find better company anywhere.

SAND HOLLOW – Hurricane, UT

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Subtle and strategic on the front nine, and breathtakingly bold and beautiful on the back, Sand Hollow has it all.  This is a bit of a cheat as the back nine would require a cart to get around multiple times in one day, but I am making an exception.  It’s that good, especially with the fast and firm conditions presented by Superintendent Wade Field’s team.

DUNES CLUB – New Buffalo, MI

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The Keiser family’s club is the perfect place to loop around endlessly.  A variety of holes, solid greens, and multiple teeing options make these 9 holes play like 36+.  Mr. Keiser has recently embraced tree removal across the property opening up views, and allowing Superintendent Scott Goniwiecha’s team to expand corridors of firm turf.  No need for a scorecard, just go play.

OLD MACDONALD – Bandon, OR

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Photo by Jon Cavalier

Old Mac is not my favorite course at Bandon Dunes, but it is the only one that makes the 108 in 48 cut for me.  The width and scale create the possibility of holes playing dramatically differently from one round to the next.  The execution of the homage to CBM by Tom Doak, Jim Urbina, et al is spot on and glorious to explore for golf geeks.  Superintendent Fred Yates’s team provides ideal conditions for lovers of bounce and roll.


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Copyright 2018 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf


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Old Macdonald Course Tour by Jon Cavalier

OLD MACDONALD – A COURSE TOUR & APPRECIATION

Bandon Dunes Resort, Bandon, OR – Tom Doak & Jim Urbina

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Old Macdonald is the most recently opened course at Bandon Dunes, but it is already considered by many to be the best.  The course is intended as an homage to the architectural principles of Charles Blair Macdonald.  As such, it is not a replica course, but rather uses the architectural templates of the Macdonald / Raynor / Banks school and adapts them as needed to fit the land, much in the same way that Macdonald himself (and later Raynor and Banks) did.

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As stated in the yardage guide, “The goal has been not to copy Macdonald’s great holes any more than Macdonald would have settled for carbon copies of the Alps and Redan – but to borrow upon his inspiration and method for our own fine piece of links ground.  Those familiar with Macdonald’s work will compare and contrast his holes and our own with their forefathers at St. Andrews, Leven, and Littlestone; others will have the chance to experience for the first time these classic concepts which are the very foundation of the game.”

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Drawing upon their extensive experience in restoring the classic work of Macdonald and Raynor, Doak and Urbina set about building a course that would allow players to experience this classic golden age style of design while independently providing a fun and engaging golf experience.  The result is an absolute triumph.

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As a devout Macdonald/Raynor fan, I loved Old Macdonald.  It was a thrill playing the modern adaptations of the Macdonald templates in such an incredible setting.  But I also played a round with three people who had never heard of C.B. Macdonald, and two proclaimed Old Macdonald their favorite course at Bandon.

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At over 250,000 square feet, the greens at Old Macdonald are by far the largest in the United States.  Coupled with the firm conditions and tight fairways, Old Macdonald allows for use of the ground game like few courses this side of the Atlantic.  The golf course is a blast to play, and is proof positive that the classic principles of design are more than adequate to provide an engaging experience when adapted to modern standards.

OLD MACDONALD

Old Macd occupies the northernmost part of the property at Bandon.  Its clubhouse is about 5 minutes by shuttle from the main resort.

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Hole 1 – 304 yards – Par 4 – “Double Plateau”

No hiding the ball at Old Macdonald – the player sees just what he’s in for right from the start: namely, super-wide fairways and expansive greens.  The course begins inland of a massive line of gorse-covered dunes, which obscure the majority of the course to the west.

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The course begins with a favorite template of many C.B. Macdonald fans — the double plateau.  Fortunately, the pin on this huge green is visible from the tee, allowing the player to pick the preferred angle of approach.  The middle fairway bunkers are in play for mid- to long-hitters.

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The elevation changes in the faithfully recreated double plateau green are dramatic.  A principal’s nose bunker guards the front left of the green.  Another bunker catches balls that run through the valley in the green.

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A fun opener, and a great hole to set the tone for the round.

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Hole 2 – 162 yards – Par 3 – “Eden”

The largest Eden green I’ve ever seen, and a beautiful par-3 in its own right, the third is guarded on the left by a rough bunker and in the middle-right by the deep, revetted Strath bunker that plays much larger than its actual footprint.

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This bunker collects balls from far and wide.  The contouring and elevation change in this massive green are tremendous.

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Eden indeed.

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Hole 3 – 345 yards – Par 4 – “Sahara”

One of your author’s favorite holes at Bandon, the third offers a unique and compelling take on the Sahara template.  It calls for a completely blind tee shot over the sand dune to a wide fairway shared with the fourteenth hole.  Anything from a ball to the left of the cedar to the right side of the exposed sand is playable.

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The old Port Orford Cedar stands sentry at the top of the bluff, and lords over most of the round at Old Mac.  The tree is visible from nearly the entire course.

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Once the player crests the dune, the huge expanse of Old Macdonald is revealed.  Parts of every hole on the golf course are visible from this spot.

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Good drives on the proper line will catch the slope of this heavily contoured fairway and may tumble down to within putting distance.

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It can be difficult to tell where the fairway ends and the huge green begins.

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A look back up the incomparable third fairway.

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Hole 4 – 472 yards – Par 5 – “Hog’s Back”

So nice to see a well-executed version of the Hog’s Back template.  Here, a drive that remains on top of the centerline ridge will kick forward for more distance, while tee shots to the side will tumble down into the valleys, leaving a blind shot from an often crooked lie.

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While the fairway is wide as a whole, the hog’s back itself is fairly narrow.  But hitting it provides a valuable benefit on this long par 4 hole.

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A nasty center bunker waits in the middle of the fairway some 50 yards short of the green . . .

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. . . while a catch basin waits to collect approaches left short of the putting surface.

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A superb half-par hole.

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Hole 5 – 134 yards – Par 3 – “Short”

The shortest hole at Old Macdonald, and one of the largest greens you’ll ever see.  Look at all those potential pin placements!

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This mammoth green has a bit of curl to it as well.

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This is probably the easiest pin on this green, and one of the only flattish spots on which to putt. A lovely rendition of the short template.

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Hole 6 – 520 yards – Par 5 – “Long”

The longest hole on the course follows the shortest.  Playing directly into the prevailing summer wind, the sixth forces the golfer to decide whether to take on Hell Bunker with their second shot.

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Hell Bunker dominates the second shot and obscures the view of the green from most parts of the fairway.

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The bunker is aptly named – your author speaks from experience.

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The sixth traverses some of the least interesting land on the property, and it is a credit to Doak and Urbina that the result is one of the most interesting holes on the course.  A large knob guarding the green front right makes the approach from the right side blind and redirects shots left short in all directions.

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This large bunker center rear catches any approach that runs through the front-to-rear sloping green.  It is not an ideal place to be — again, your author speaks from experience.  Twice.

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Like the fifth, the sixth green is a masterwork.

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Hole 7 – 345 yards – Par 4 – “Ocean”

The seventh is one of the few holes at Old Macdonald not based on a Macdonald template, and it is also one of the best holes on the property.  The drive out into a wide, rippling fairway is all about positioning, and avoiding the deep fairway bunker to the left of the large hill on which the green sits.

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The size and steepness of this dune is difficult to grasp from a photo, but the relative size of the flagstick gives an idea of its massive scale.  Any approach left short will tumble all the way back down until it hits a bunker or reaches the bottom of the hill.

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Tough pin today.  Though the green is large, it also contains a fair amount of slope.  Chipping to this pin from the back of the green is terrifying.  A tough par.

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Until the seventh, the course plays mostly inland away from the ocean.  This aptly named hole gives the golfer his first real taste of the sea.  For a golfer on a first time trip to Bandon and who happens to play Old Macdonald first (as did your author), the feeling of ascending to the seventh green rivals any in golf.

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Sidebar – Tom Doak’s Sheep’s Ranch

After playing the seventh, if the golfer looks upshore to the north, a beautiful view of Tom Doak’s mysterious Sheep’s Ranch is provided (along with a view of a hell of a lot of gorse).

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Hole 8 – 170 yards – Par 3 – “Biarritz”

There remain several great Biarritz holes in the country – the ninth at Piping Rock, the ninth at Yale and the fifth at Fishers Island are a few of the best.  In your author’s opinion, the eighth at Old Macdonald can stand with any of the holes in this group.  It is an exceptional example of the Biarritz template.

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The front portion of this large Biarritz green is sloped toward the swale, to encourage shots that run down and through the trough.

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The wide channel bisecting the eighth green.

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Shorter hitters can use the back of the knob front left of the green for extra forward kick.  A wonderfully fun hole to play.

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Hole 9 – 352 yards – Par 4 – “Cape”

The ninth turns back in a southerly direction and begins a sequence of holes that plays back and forth across the open area of the property.  The ninth curves gently right around some rugged bunkers and gorse bushes.

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These bunkers are nasty.  In fact, missing the fairway right at the ninth is one of the few places on Old Macdonald where a golfer can lose a ball.

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Playing out to the left leaves a longer approach but a better angle up the open mouth of this green.

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The contours within the ninth green provide a challenge as well as an aid in directing greenside shots and putts toward or away from the intended target.

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Hole 10 – 440 yards – Par 4 – “Bottle”

The tenth plays to one of the widest fairways on the golf course, but the large fairway is dotted with four penal bunkers that run from short left to long right.  Care must be taken to challenge the bunker suitable for the individual golfer’s abilities.

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The bunkers crossing the fairway are deep and high lipped – playing out backward is sometimes the only play.

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The difficult green is set atop a small dune, with the surface falling away to the right of the green.  The land allows a running approach up the left side, which will catch a slope and redirect to the center of the green.  But anything short right will bound down the hill and away from the putting surface.

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This view from the side of the green shows the substantial high right to low left tilt.  An overly conservative miss to the left side of this green leaves a treacherous putt.

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Hole 11 – 399 yards – Par 4 – “Road”

If ever there was a hole where the position of the tee shot mattered, this is it.  If the pin is right, play right.  If it’s left, play left.  Note that the fairway is wider than it appears, as the gorse bushes down the right side come to a halt short of where many players can carry their drives.

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This angle, from the right of the fairway, is the ideal position for today’s pin.  While the player must still contend with the substantial false front, he is also afforded the widest angle into the green and can play away from the deep revetted bunker.

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This position, on the other hand, is not ideal.  Note that it is not simply the deep bunker that provides the thrills here, but the brilliantly constructed green.

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A look back down the long eleventh green.

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Hole 12 – 205 yards – Par 3 – “Redan”

Playing with the prevailing summer wind, this classic redan green can be difficult to hold even with well struck approach shots.

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Running the ball on to this green is possible, and in some cases, preferred.  The redan kick slope impacts balls that land on the green or short of it.

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Everyone loves a well designed Redan, and the twelfth at Old Macdonald fits the bill.

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Hole 13 – 319 yards – Par 4 – “Leven”

This short par four plays to a green squeezed between two dunes.

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While the safer play is down the bunkerless left side of the fairway . . .

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. . . the right provides the better angle into this severely sloping and heavily contoured green.

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The large wraparound berm that runs down the left side and around the back of this green provides a backstop that allows the player to bring an approach shot back to the center of the green.

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Even approach shots that land halfway up the left dune will bound happily back on to the green.  A fun, exciting hole.

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Hole 14 – 297 yards – Par 4 – “Maiden”

A short par four with a gargantuan fairway, the fourteenth plays back up the massive dune that the player initially crossed while playing the third hole.  The player can play as aggressively left or as conservatively right as he chooses.

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The inclined fairway is rippled throughout, adding a degree of challenge to what is typically a wedge approach.

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The wide, shallow fourteenth green is benched into the side of the massive dune.

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The back to front slope and internal contours of the fourteen provide an added element of difficulty on an otherwise short hole.

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Hole 15 – 482 yards – Par 5 – “Westward Ho”

The aptly named fifteenth hole turns once more toward the sea.  From a tee high on the face of the dune, the fifteenth falls to the valley below and swings right around a deep sandy scar.

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This par 5 is reachable in two for longer hitters.

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But care must be taken to avoid the fairway bunker short and right of the green.

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Not where you want to be.

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The green is backstopped by the top of the dune which separates the seventh green complex from the fifteenth.

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Shots that roll through the green are gathered by this grassy trench, a nifty little feature which illustrates the care that went into designing the greens at Old Macdonald.

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A very beautiful and enjoyable hole.

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Hole 16 – Par 4 – 433 yards – “Alps”

The sixteenth tee is the northwesternmost point at the Bandon Dunes resort, and begins the sweeping trek homeward.

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The large encroaching dune provides the “Alps” feature here, and renders blind all but the longest tee shots that squeak past it on the right.

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The view of the ‘Alps” feature from the middle of the fairway.  The directional post on top gives the player a general idea of the line to the center of the green.

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The beautifully-sited sixteenth green, nestled between a surrounding ring of dunes, is revealed upon passing the dune.  The green is partially backstopped to contain long approaches.

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The view from behind this exceptional hole reveals the short grass behind the alps feature that can assist shorter hitters in reaching this green in two.  While this hole remains controversial to some who are not familiar with Macdonald’s Alps template, it is surely a favorite of those who are.

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Hole 17 – 515 yards – Par 5 – “Littlestone”

Playing with the prevailing summer wind, the seventeenth is reachable in two for players willing to challenge the hazard reaching into the right portion of the fairway.  While the fairway does provide ample room, this is one of the more intimidating tee shots on the course.

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If these bunkers can be avoided, a good score is likely on this hole.

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If not, unlikely.

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In your author’s opinion, Old Macdonald closes with two of the best greens on the property.  The seventeenth is fronted by a bunker and a slope that will either facilitate a ball to a back pin or kick it past a front pin.  Exposed knobs right, left and behind this green lend their substantial influence to the putting surface.

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The view from the back portion of the sizable seventeenth green illustrates the beauty of the setting.

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Hole 18 – 426 yards – Par 4 – “Punchbowl”

The final tee shot at Old Macdonald must avoid the fairway bunkers on both sides.  Any tee shot on grass will have a good look at this last green.

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And what a green it is.  Ringed with mounding, the eighteenth green slopes several feet from its elevated left side to its lower right.  Long approach shots can be hit into the mouth of this green on the left and run all the way down to today’s pin in the bottom right corner.

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The view from the right rear of the punchbowl reveals the tumbling slope of the putting surface.

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Having walked right past this green on the way to the first tee, the golfer has been anticipating playing it since the beginning of the round.  The experience more than lives up to billing.

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Old Mac is the rare course that would be both a thrill to play once and an enjoyable experience to play every day.  For lovers of classic, golden age architecture, it provides an opportunity to see those principles interpreted and adapted by the brightest minds in modern golf architecture.  For those that aren’t, the course is simply a fun, unique and beautiful place to play golf.  In either regard, Old Macdonald is a resounding success.

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I hope you enjoyed the tour!


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Copyright 2017 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf


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An Homage to the Short Par 3

“In this era of obscene power, the likes of which the game has never witnessed, why not strive to induce a little fun into the mix and at the same time present a true test of delicacy and accuracy?” – Ben Crenshaw

This quote from an essay in Geoff Shackelford’s book Masters of the Links resonates with me.  In the work I have been doing at Canal Shores (read more about it here), I am coming to appreciate short courses and short holes more and more – especially short par 3s.

Therefore, I would like to pay homage to short par 3s here by constructing an 18 hole course out of some of the best.  Mr. Crenshaw provided a list of 11 in his article:

  • Pine Valley #10
  • National Golf Links #6
  • Whitemarsh Valley #9
  • Merion #13
  • Royal Melbourne #7
  • Pebble Beach #7
  • Cypress Point #15
  • Royal Troon #8
  • Chicago Golf Club #10
  • Augusta National #12
  • Kingston Heath #15

I’ll round it out with 7 (plus a bonus) of my personal favorites to play:

  • Bandon Trails #5
  • Crystal Downs #14
  • Kingsley Club #2
  • Maidstone #8
  • Shoreacres #12
  • Streamsong Blue #5
  • Old Macdonald #5
  • Bonus Hole: Friar’s Head #17

Why do I love to play short par 3s?  Because they are great at causing internal conflict.  The shorter distance makes me think that I should be able to easily execute the shot.  That expectation of success can cut both ways: it comes with a boost of confidence, and extra pressure.  In much the same way that a 5-footer can break you down, so can a short par 3.  I have to try extra hard to focus on execution, and stay off the result.  Easier said than done when standing on the tee with a wedge or short iron.  Good golf shots are rarely produced with one’s head twisted into a pretzel.  I love taking on the mental challenge presented by short 3s.

I am working on concepts for several short par 3s for Canal Shores and they are great fun to contemplate and discuss.  Removal of distance as the primary challenge also removes creative constraints.  The player won’t be challenged by length, but there are so many other ways to interest and mentally torment – green size, contours, site lines, orientation, hazards, elevation change, etc.  Let it not be said that a shorty can’t test skill and fortitude.

It is my hope that architects continue to find ways to incorporate devilish little par 3s, and short holes of all kinds, into their designs.  In the age of the long ball (in every sense of the phrase), the shorties add so much to the game.

Do you have favorite short par 3s that I missed?  Post them here in the comments, or on Twitter – tag me at @JasonWay1493 or #short3s.


ADDITIONS FROM FELLOW GOLF GEEKS

 


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An Evening with Jim Urbina

JimandMeAs a member of GolfClubAtlas.com, I was fortunate to be able to attend a dinner with my fellow GCA geeks this week at which Jim Urbina gave an insightful talk that he themed, The Evolution of a Golf Course.  From his original collaborations with Tom Doak on courses such as Pacific Dunes, Old Macdonald and Sebonack, to his restorations of classics such as Pasatiempo and Valley Club of Montecito, Jim continues to make his mark and connect us to the soul of the game.

There were a few nuggets that Jim shared that I found particularly interesting – I happily pass them along to you.

“Pete Dye never looked at plans.”

Jim’s first job in the business was working for Pete Dye.  His first day was spent digging a drainage ditch.  He quit after that first day.  An offer from Mr. Dye to operate a bulldozer if he came back for a second day worked, and the rest is history.  Jim was brought up in the school of GCA that considers designing a course and building it to be inseparable aspects of one, unified job.  He learned his craft by studying great courses, and then coming back to his projects to apply those learnings while walking the land and digging in the dirt.  The pride and joy of creation is evident in the way that Jim talks about projects like Pacific Dunes and Old Macdonald.

OldMac

“Evolution of the course starts from the day you plant the seed.”

Having worked on many restorations of Golden Age golf courses, Jim has seen how far some of those courses have strayed from the original designers’ intent.  Beyond the painstaking work of returning these courses to their original greatness, Jim shared an interesting insight about how courses evolve over time.  That evolution doesn’t happen only because of misguided redesigns or decisions by Greens Committees.  Evolution is happening every day on a golf course because it is a living, breathing thing.  He reminded us, “You become a part of the golf course.”  Blast sand out of a bunker, you are subtly changing the contours of the green.  Take a divot and repair it in the fairway, you are changing that fairway forever.  Walk a well worn path, from a green to the next tee, you are participating in the evolution of the course.

Even with a restoration, the course will never be quite the same as it was on the first day it opened.  Our job as stewards of our courses is to guard the spirit of the design while allowing the evolution to happen as it will.  Courses evolve, whether we like it or not.

PacDunes

“There are seasons of golf. You shouldn’t try and make every season the same season.”

Jim fielded a question about expectations for course conditioning, specifically in the spring.  His answer went in a different direction than the questioner had anticipated.  He pointed out that the turf, soil, and sand of a golf course go naturally through the changes of the seasons.  The course looks different, and it plays differently during those seasons if we leave it alone.  We as golfers often ask our Superintendents to make the golf course look and play the same throughout the year, and this is something that Jim has never understood.  From his perspective, why not enjoy the changing of the seasons and the variety that those seasons add to your golf course, especially in temperate climates?  Well, when you put it that way…

His answer to this question got to the larger issue of player expectations, and how many of those expectations are out of whack.  Firmess, green speeds, rough height…these are debates that are ongoing and are worthy of their own pages.  I believe Jim would say, as a rule, the more natural a course can be maintained, the better.  When in doubt, go with what Nature would do.

OldMac7

Beyond being incredibly gracious, Jim’s experience around the globe and over the decades has clearly resulted in wisdom about this game we love.  The years and the miles have not dampened his enthusiasm, however.  As he told us, “Everything I do is about passion.”  Passion for the work of creation, passion to learn, and passion to continue spreading his gospel of what the game is all about.  This quote from his website sums it up: “Golf is supposed to be fun, spread the word.”


For more from Jim Urbina:


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Golf Course Architecture & History – A Video Archive

It is exciting to see increased discussion of golf course architecture on Golf Channel and other televised golf coverage, with Matt Ginella and Geoff Shackelford leading the way.  Perhaps some day, we will see the GCA show I argued for in this previous post – The Art of Course.

In the meantime, this video link archive has been created to be a resource for all those who want in-depth exploration of golf courses, architecture and history.  Many thanks to my collaborator Kyle Truax (on Twitter @TheTruArchitect) for his extensive contributions to this archive.  Check back regularly for updates, and see below for Kyle’s own video series TruAxioms.

A few words about the format and structure of the archive: Wherever possible, a YouTube playlist has been created for each subject, and can be played right from this page.  Links to videos from sources other than YouTube have also been provided, with hyperlinks in the video titles.

With proliferation of GCA-related videos, the original single page format was getting to be a bit unruly.  I split the archive into three parts, in addition to this index page, which will still include the video links for the current year’s Major Championship venues.

GOLF COURSES

This page features course-specific videos.  A great resource for course research.

GOLF COURSE ARCHITECTS

This page features architect interviews, presentations, etc. that are not course specific to a single course.  See the Architect videos here…

GCA COMMENTATORS

This page features the Golf Channel architecture features, as well as videos from other commentators and architecture enthusiasts.  See the Commentators videos here…

If you have any clips to add, please feel free to tweet them me at @JasonWay1493 or leave them here in the comments.  Enjoy!


MAJOR CHAMPIONSHIP VENUES of 2018

AugustaMastersLogo.pngTHE MASTERS – Augusta National GC

  • Hole Flyovers and photo gallery from Masters.com:

HOLE 1 – Par 4 – Tea Olive                                        HOLE 10 – Par 4 – Camellia

HOLE 2 – Par 5 – Pink Dogwood                              HOLE 11 – Par 4 – White Dogwood

HOLE 3 – Par 4 – Flowering Peach                          HOLE 12 – Par 3 – Golden Bell

HOLE 4 – Par 3 – Flowering Crab Apple                 HOLE 13 – Par 5 – Azalea

HOLE 5 – Par 4 – Magnolia                                       HOLE 14 – Par 4 – Chinese Fir

HOLE 6 – Par 3 – Juniper                                          HOLE 15 – Par 5 – Firethorn

HOLE 7 – Par 4 – Pampas                                         HOLE 16 – Par 3 – Redbud

HOLE 8 – Par 5 – Yellow Jasmine                            HOLE 17 – Par 4 – Nandina

HOLE 9 – Par 4 – Carolina Cherry                          HOLE 18 – Par 4 – Holly

 

ShinnecockHillsLogo.jpgTHE U.S. OPEN – Shinnecock Hills GC

(Host: 2018, 2004, 1995, 1986, 1896)

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THE OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP – Carnoustie Golf Links

(Host: 2018, 2007, 1999, 1975, 1968, 1953, 1937, 1931)

BellerivePGA.png

PGA CHAMPIONSHIP – Bellerive CC

 

 

 

Copyright 2017 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf


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Want to Improve Pace of Play? Start Firing Golfers.

The USGA has been studying pace of play extensively and sharing results at their Symposium.  They are amassing data that promises to help course operators improve “flow”.  Additionally, technological innovations like smart flags, GPS-enabled carts, and others will track players and help them keep the pace.

These initiatives may very well help, and I applaud the USGA for doing what it can.  Unfortunately, they strike me as unlikely to solve the problem of slow play because they don’t address the core problem – motives and behavior of course operators and players.

In my career, I have learned quite a bit about motives and behavior from my colleagues and customers.  Several basic truths have emerged for me:

1. Most people – customers and coworkers – have good intentions and are doing their best.  They have moments when they fall short, just as I do.  But even in those moments of carelessness, ignorance, or selfishness, they are not bad people.  They are imperfect, like we all are.

2. Every person does a better job if they are clear on expectations and ground rules.  Especially when those ground rules are based on the principle of providing maximum benefit to all stakeholders.

3. A small percentage of people just don’t “get it”.  Whether they are too ignorant, selfish, or stubborn, they simply can’t or won’t play by the ground rules and contribute to the success of the whole.  Upon identifying people like this, it is always best to fire them as quickly as possible, whether they are coworkers, vendors, or even customers.  They are a drag on the business, and not taking action to remove them will quickly start to degrade one’s ability to be of service to the good people.

Over decades of managing people, customer relationships, and companies, I have experienced very few (if any) exceptions to these 3 truths.

What does that have to do with pace of play?  Let’s return to my assertion about the core problem – people – using my experience with a favorite course of mine, Arcadia Bluffs, to illustrate.

Arcadia Bluffs is a really neat and challenging golf course on one of the most beautiful settings you’ll find, overlooking Lake Michigan.  The staff is great, and the service is first class.  I have a home 10 minutes from the course, and I have played it many times.

I have also brought quite a few friends to play there.  They have all appreciated the beauty of the course, but most of them never want to go back.  Why?  Because it takes at least 4:45 to play a round, and often upwards of 5:15.  Arcadia Bluffs is losing customers because of slow play, and not just among my golf buddies.  In speaking to people about it, it is clear that Arcadia has a bad reputation for pace of play that keeps people away.  That is bad for business, and Arcadia Bluffs is certainly not alone.

What can they do about it?

They can use data from the emerging technology and the USGA studies to improve flow on their course.  They should not just try to maximize rounds to maximize profits.  They should schedule the maximum number of rounds appropriate for their course (based on its difficulty and routing), and then actively manage bottlenecks.  This is a no-brainer, and they are probably already working on it.  It will help a little, but it won’t solve the problem.

To truly solve the problem, they also have to manage their players more proactively and effectively.  Currently, they try to do this by having the starter give a pace-of-play speech on the first tee, and by having rangers on the course.  This is obviously not working currently, and here is why:

The starter speechifies you to play at a decent pace, but doesn’t tell you how.  The rangers may tell you to play faster, but they don’t tell you how.  Based on the first two truths above, this means that people who would like to behave properly might not because they don’t know how.  They are therefore more likely to “have moments”.  It doesn’t take many of those moments to ruin pace for a whole day.

What the starter could do instead is lay out some specific expectations (local rules) for how to keep pace up.  Here are a few examples from my buddies groups:

  • Play ready golf, obviously.
  • The entire group plays from the tees that are appropriate for the highest handicapper.
  • Look for a lost ball for no more than 2 minutes – can’t find it, drop.
  • If you chip/pitch twice and you’re not on the green, you’re done.
  • If you putt twice and you’re not in the hole, you’re done.
  • Single-digit handicappers don’t hit the ball more times than par+2.  Double-digit handicappers, no more than double-par.

We play matches and we still use these rules.  Don’t like ’em?  Find someone else to play with.  Do they work?  We were the first group off at Old MacDonald last fall and got around in 3:30.  Needless to say, the group behind us was not keeping up.

If the starter and rangers at Arcadia Bluffs provided coaching on these rules, the good people will be more likely to respond.  Setting these expectations, and then coaching to them, also allows Arcadia to deal effectively with the “don’t/won’t get it” crowd.

If the pace of these players remains slow, and they refuse to change their behavior, Arcadia Bluffs needs to fire them for the good of every other player on the course.  They have to proactively defend the pace.  In practice, this means that the slow-pokes need to be given their money back and asked never to come back, mid-round if need be.

To service industry professionals, this might sound crazy.  To ignorant and/or inconsiderate golfers, it likely seems offensive because they think that having money in hand means that they are buying carte blanche.  But here is why it is necessary if Arcadia Bluffs really wants to fix pace of play and its reputation, and make its business continue to thrive in the long run:

All other things being equal, slow pace makes every golf experience worse relative to smooth, brisk pace.  Every time a golfer has to wait (regardless of their personal pace of play), they are unhappy.  In turn, they are less likely to come back.

Conversely, if I knew that Arcadia Bluffs was willing to fire “bad customers” to enhance the experience of good customers, I would a) be more likely to return, and b) drag my buddies.  Further, especially in the digital age with this issue so prevalent, it is hard to imagine something more likely to create buzz for a course than kicking chronically slow playersAlCzervik to the curb.

So keep doing the studies and keep working on the technology, and keep up the “While We’re Young!” campaigns to raise awareness.  But I beseech you Arcadia Bluffs and other course operators, give us your ground rules for how to keep the pace, and then fire the people who can’t or won’t.  I promise you that the rest of your customers will celebrate you for it, and to steal another Al Czervik quote, we’ll “make it worth your while.”


MORE GEEKED ON GOLF MUSINGS:

 

 

Copyright 2014 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf