Saturday, December 29, 2012

Year In Review

2012 was a good year for me.

Highlights
-Playing Peachtree in October. This is certainly the best course I have played since Pebble Beach and the best course I have played in the Southern US.

-The Hundred Hole Hike in July. This was both fun and painful. Walking 100 holes in a day was very difficult. But the reward that came from raising over $2000 for charity was great.

-Playing Oxmoor Valley and Ross Bridge in June. This was a lot of fun and the first time I'd played 4 different golf courses in a single day. I don't expect to top that any time soon, if ever.

-Played a total of 30 new golf courses and 6 of those ended up in my personal Top 25.

-TPC Louisiana in December. This course exceeded expectations. I didn't expect the course to have so much variety and interest.

-Ross Bridge in June. Greatly exceeded expectations. For the course to be so long it has great interest and is quite fun to play.

-Met some great guys both through internet groups and random pairings on the course.

Upcoming Plans
-Currently planning to play at least 9 courses in January. 8 different courses on the RTJ Trail and East Lake.

-Hopefully I can take advantage of the Trail offer of $21 on the 21st this year like I did this past year. After January, I'll have 3 Trail sites to play (Hampton Cove, The Shoals, and Highland Oaks) plus 1 course at both Cambrian Ridge and Lakewood. Hopefully I can finish all those this year.

-And hopefully I can meet some new friends on and off the course while playing some new rounds.


Thanks to all my readers here, I hope to grow this site over the next year to greater size than it is right now. The growth over the last half year has been great. I greatly appreciate all of you that read here. Any suggestions for content will be considered. Thank you and here's to next year.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Designing for Weather and Location

It seems like such an obvious statement. Golf courses should be designed for the meteorological and geographical conditions of the given area. But digging deeper, what does that mean? I look back on a fine course I played about a month ago, The Dunes Golf & Beach Club in Myrtle Beach. The weather when I played was fairly rough, 55 degree temps, winds 20-25 miles per hour out of the north and rather slow fairways due to rain the day before. Catch is, this course was not really designed for conditions like that, at least not from a specific set of tees designed to cater to a specific type of player.

A set of holes that come to mind readily is the stretch from holes 10-13. The 10th hole is a 380 yard par 4, 11 is a 430 yard par 4, 12 is a 245 yard par 3, and 13 is a 590 yard par 5. These holes provide a substantial challenge to the player even in standard conditions when temps are in the mid-80's, the fairways are much more firm and the wind is gentle to moderate out of the south. However, on the day I played, given the conditions above, they were incredibly difficult. Typically, given driver off the tee, I would have approached 10 with a lob wedge, 11 with a pitching wedge, 12 with a 5 wood, and 13 with a sand wedge after a 3 wood second shot. However, given the conditions, I approached with 6 iron, 3 wood, 3 wood (from 185 yards, not 245) and 6 iron after a 3 wood 2nd. So the effective lengths of these holes, based on how I play, were 480 yards, 550 yards, 260 yards (from the 185 tees, I played those because I had just hit a 205 yard drive on 11 that was very well struck and was rather certain I would be unable to clear the water even if I hit a perfect driver) and 730 yards. So because the holes were not really designed to be played from the back tees in conditions like I faced, the effective length of the holes was astronomical.

But the conditions I faced there are not standard there. In fact, there are likely very fews days in the course of an entire year that fit those conditions.

I had a similar thought the first time I played a golf course in Alaska. The Creek course at Moose Run was the first course I played in the state, back in 2009. I played it from the back tees, around 7400 yards. But I played on a day when the temperature was in the mid-70's, a very warm day up there. I couldn't figure out why Golf Digest had ranked this course among the 50 most difficult courses in America. However, when I returned to Alaska in 2012, I played more courses and playing them in "standard" Alaska conditions opened my eyes a bit to why that course might be so difficult. The first two rounds I played were played when the temperatures did not get out of the 50's. On a day like that, which is not uncommon in Alaska even in the peak "heat" of summertime, 7400 yards becomes a incredible length for even the longest of golfers.

Altitude is also something that must be considered when designing for conditions. Edgewood Tahoe plays 7,555 yards from the back tees, but the course sits at 6,200 feet elevation. So it plays effectively much, much shorter than that. I recall hitting driver off the tee on #2 and having less than 50 yards left to the green; #2 is 417 yards from the back tees. On #18 I hit driver off the tee then had yardage that dictated a 6 iron (I had to lay up due to a strong wind coming off the lake to the right and a pond to the left of the green) and #18 is 572 yards long. So obviously with numbers like that, the 7,500 yards becomes more manageable.

But the standard conditions for an area must be used to determine overall course length and individual hole length. This was a concept that I failed to understand for quite some time. While I do still believe that courses of astronomical length are needed to challenge professional golfers and elite amateurs, courses designed for member play, even high level member play, can be designed with a reasonable effective length in mind. Perhaps that number is 6900 yards, perhaps more, perhaps less. Either way, all the conditions must be taken into consideration, by the owners/developers more than the designers (the designer all ready knows the "right" yardage), when determining what length the course will play. After all, 7,195 yards at The Dunes, played at effectively sea level, with temps of 55 degrees and a strong wind is quite a bit longer than 7,555 yards at Edgewood Tahoe, at 6,200 feet above sea level on a 75 degree day with no wind, though the raw numbers indicate the opposite.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Stonehouse Golf Club-Toano, VA

Another of the few golf courses that Mike Strantz designed. This one, sadly, lacks that "it" that the other courses have. That said, this is a quality golf course and certainly one to play. This course is simply a normal golf course, if there is such a thing. It does not reach the extremism seen at Tobacco Road and Tot Hill Farm. It does not play extremely difficult like Royal New Kent. This course plays somewhat similar to many other housing based membership clubs. In most cases this would be a fine course, but compared to Mike Strantz's other work, it falls a bit short.

Ranking
Variety of Design: The par 3's have only modest variety, ranging only from 172 to 204 yards. The par 4's virtually all fall in the mid-400 yard range, none being very short nor very long. And the par 5's have only moderate variety as well. Directionally, the holes would seem to balance out well, having 6 holes playing right, 7 holes playing left and 6 playing straight (the 7th doglegs both left and right), yet upon digging a bit deeper one finds that the holes on the front nine are broken down as 6 holes right, 1 left, and 3 straight, while the back nine is 6 left and 3 straight. The overall balance is fair, the by each nine, quite skewed. 5 3/4 out of 10

Flow of the Course: This course has limited flow. None of the holes stand out as exceptional to give high points to the round. But none are so poor as to give extremely low points. 5 out of 10

Course Conditioning: In most places the turf is solid. A few greens had some dead spots due to heat and lack of air flow, but in general, the conditions were what one would expect give the fees. 5 3/4 out of 10

Ease of Walking: Not good. Significant distances between many of the holes, road crossings and hilly terrain makes this a difficult walk. 3 1/4 out of 10

Atmosphere: Mike Strantz being the designer gives a bit of a boost, but other than that, not much atmosphere here. 3 out of 10

Total: 50 out of 100

*All photos property of and used with permission from The Buffalo Golfer www.buffalogolfer.com*

Holes to Note
Hole #1: Par 4, 401 yards
This is likely the easiest opening hole from Strantz that I have played. The play off the tee is fairly simple. The bunker on the right can be easily carried, but the player must be mindful of the fact that the fairway ends at 285 yards from the back tee. Longer players may be able to run the ball through the fairway. But in general, the tee shot should not be overly difficult given that the fairway is over 60 yards wide. From the fairway, the player will have an open approach shot to a green cut into the side of a large hill.
The fairway runs from the center of the bunker on the right to a line pointed towards the lone tree on the left. Anything in the fairway will give the player a solid look at the green.

The green is cut deeply into the side of the hill. Shots missed more than a fraction in any direction will be done no favors.

Hole #5: 431 yards
This hole plays fairly long with a blind tee shot and then an approach shot to a Punchbowl green. The best line off the tee is to favor the right side, even with a line over the shorter tree. The green is fairly open in front and could allow for a run-up shot, though that would not be the preferred option.
From the tee, the player is unable to see the fairway. The stake visible in the middle of the fairway is not the 150 yard stake, indeed that stake is more than 225 yards from the green. Any shot left of that stake will not find the fairway.

The green is surrounded on 3 sides by the bowl. Shots hit a slight distance up on the hills will kick down onto the green. The wide opening in front may allow for a roll-up shot, but there is a depression short of the green which likely prevents that.

Hole #14: Par 4, 402 yards
This is a solid hole even though is has an awkward green site. The bunkers visible off the tee are completely out of play unless the player tops a shot. The tee shot is blind and the best line is directly over the two bunkers seen on the left side of the image; the orange bunkers in the foreground to be specific. That will leave the player with 150 or less yards into the green. To a certain degree, the farther right the players tee shot is played, the better, due to angle and being able to see the pin or the green, but this is certainly not a green that one will want to approach with a long iron.
From the tee, the best line is directly over the grass that separates the two orange sand bunkers in the foreground. That will allow the player a clear view of the green.

From around 150 out, this is the look at the green. This is certainly an aerial only approach and any miss hit shot will be severely penalized.

A closer look at the green shows the jungle surrounding the green on all sides.

Hole #18: Par 4, 453 yards
This is a difficult closing hole. The fairway is over 100 yards wide before part of it comes to an end 265 yards off the tee. The shortest line to the green comes from playing the tee shot close down the treeline on the left. This is where the fairway runs out. Playing over to the left, over the large shrubby tree in the center of the below image will give the player more length for the tee shot, but will also leave a longer approach. To the green the player has multiple options. From the shorter route, the player must fly the ball all the way to the green. From the longer route to the right, the player is able to bring the ball in low with a run-up shot. Very solid finishing hole.
The shortest line to the green comes from playing close to the treeline on the left. Players who hit the ball more than 275 yards off the tee will need to play less than driver when playing down this side. From there, the player will have around 170 yards to the center of the green, but the ball must be carried onto the putting surface, there is no run-up option. Players who choose to play to the right, over the shrub, will be left with about 190 yards to the center of the green even if they are able to hit the tee shot 300 yards. This shot, however, can be played with a run-up shot if desired.

From the center of the fairway, both approach options are visible. Anything left of here will not have the option of playing the shot on the ground. Anything right will need more club to reach the green but is able to be played to the green by rolling the ball up. The bunkers serve as saving features for players who slightly miss their approach shots.

Overall, this course is good but not great. It does provide a great break from the ordinary however, and is worth a look because of that. 5 out of 10

Monday, December 17, 2012

Modern Day Template Holes: The Island

The Island green hole is one of the most used modern 'Template' holes. These holes are not all identical, or very close, like the Macdonald School holes, but the concept is certainly the same for each hole. The nature of the green, being surrounded by water, makes the hole somewhat uniquely capable of bringing drama and a high point to the round. 


While not the first Island green built, that distinction is generally thought to belong to Ponte Vedra Country Club just a short ways away, the 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass (PLAYERS Stadium) is the hole that started the trend of island greens. The positioning in the round and the length of the hole, combined with the water-surrounded green, give players in match or stroke play opportunity for any score from 1, which we have seen during the PLAYERS Championship numerous times, to the 66 that Angelo Spagnolo made during the Golf Digest Worst Avid Golfer contest. That is the kind of drama and build-up that other courses have attempted when building the Island hole.

The 17th hole at PGA West (Stadium). This one was designed by Pete Dye a few years after the one at Sawgrass. In the same way, it provides the unique drama to the round, but this hole is over 20 yards longer than the hole at Sawgrass, making it much more difficult. 

This is the 16th at Golden Horseshoe (Gold) in Williamsburg, Virginia. This is a much older Island hole, dating to 1964. Obviously the concept is the same, but this hole has more room for the player to miss the green, being surrounded by 5 bunkers and significant rough space.

 This one, from Stone Harbor in New Jersey, is one of the holes that went beyond a normal Island concept and into foolishness. This green has since been rebuilt, likely at significant cost, into something more normal. This hole, and the one below, represent what the Island has become to many places, a gimmick to draw attention to the course.

 The 14th hole at Coeur d'Alene Resort in Idaho is a true island green, requiring the player to take a boat ride in order to reach the green. The green is located on a barge and the yardage can be changed day to day by allowing the green to float out farther from land. Again, a bit of a gimmick to draw attention.

The Island template is a solid hole. There are those out there who believe that holes with forced water carries are generally unfair. Perhaps they are. After all, there are virtually no options for the player when playing an Island hole. However, there do not always need to be numerous options for the play of a hole. The problem with the Island template or concept of that it has become somewhat overused and that has tarnished the quality of drama and flow to a round this type of hole can provide. But when executed well, this hole provides a high point to a round not matched by many other holes or especially hole types.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Spring Hill Golf Course-Mobile, AL

This is a simple, modest golf course in Mobile, AL. The course does not try to be anything that it is not and that is quite refreshing in this day and age. The course as a whole occupies a very interesting site. Several holes are located down on perfectly flat land near a large concrete drainage canal. Those holes are not exceptionally interesting. The rest of the course plays up and down a significant hill that makes some holes play severely up or down hill. But overall, the course is simply an average golf course for an average rate, and I think that is exactly what the course tries to be.

Ranking
Variety of Design: Fair. The par 3's have reasonable variety in yardage, but the two longest holes are not very good. One plays directly uphill to a green with a 10 ft fall off in front and the other plays to a 2 ft elevated green. Not the finest set up for 210 yard holes. Par 4's have reasonable variety, but lack a really long hole and the par 5's are all roughly the same. Directionally the course has 10 holes playing straight, 4 holes playing left and 4 holes playing right. 4 1/2 out of 10

Flow of the Course: In general, the course does little to build up. Holes 7, 8 and 9 provide the best three hole stretch on the course and the overall flow would be better if those were the finishing holes. The front nine overall is rather solid but the back nine comes through not quite as good. The flow and build to a "big finish" would be better if the nines were reversed. 3 3/4 out of 10

Course Conditioning: Conditions were average, a few bare spots, few issues with drainage, but overall the conditions were fair, especially considering the price. 4 1/4 out of 10

Ease of Walking: The course is routed well. Transitions from green to tee are generally easy, the only exception being to and from hole 8 and then to and from hole 15. Both have rather large distances from the previous green to the tee and then long, uphill walks to the next tee. The hilly nature of the site also makes it no bargain. But it is certainly not the most difficult walk, not even the most difficult in town. 6 1/2 out of 10

Atmosphere: None. No significant tournament or rankings history. 1 out of 10

Total: 40 3/4 out of 100

Holes to Note
Hole #2: Par 4, 360 yards
This hole plays significantly downhill which obviously shortens the hole even more. The pond in the distance is most certainly reachable from the tee, being 275 yards from the back markers and that downhill. Players wishing to play short of the pond must contend with the fairway bunker guarding the right side of the fairway, roughly 235 yards off the tee. Playing close to the bunker gives a better angle to the green which is angled from right to left away from the player.
 The pond is visible in the distance as is the bunker. Playing close to either hazard will give benefit to the player, either a better angle or a much shorter shot.

 This is the play to the green from around 125 yards

 This shot gives an up close view of the green that is a double plateau or biarritz green, depending on your naming preference

Hole #7: Par 5, 560 yards
This is the longest par 5 on the course, but it plays significantly downhill from the tee. A bunker guards the left side of the fairway, and farther left from there is a road that is out of bounds. The bunker is roughly 280 yards from the tee and certainly reachable for longer players. Longer players may wish to play a fairway wood off the tee, unless the are able to shape a fade around the corner or have confidence enough to play the tee shot over the trees on the right. From the fairway, the hole plays over a drainage canal that begins 65 yards short of the green. This canal dictates whether or not the player will try to go for the green in two or lay back to 80 or 100 yards short of the green.
 The bunker on the left is visible and certainly reachable. The ideal and semi-aggressive line off the tee would be to play towards the peak of the roof on the hospital in the distance.

 This view is from the fairway, perhaps 275 yards from the green. The fairway bunker on the left side is just short of the drainage canal.

 This look is from the right side of the fairway, 100 yards short of the green. The canal is marked by the tall grasses that run across the entire hole.

Hole #13: Par 4, 275 yards
This is a perfect example of a reachable par 4. The hole is very tight, having out of bounds down the left side and long of the green. Due to the shadows, many of the features are not visible, but a bunker defends the right side of the fairway for those players attempting to play safe off the tee, a fairway bunker down the left side protects the open side of the green and two deep bunkers defend the front of the green. This hole can be easy or quite difficult, a perfect combination for a short par 4.
 The bunkers are not visible here due to the shadows, but the green lies out in the distance on direct line with the left side of the large oak tree.

 These deep greenside bunkers protect the front of the green

Hole #15: Par 3, 210 yards
This hole is the longest par 3 on the course, but also the worst. The hole plays significantly uphill to a green that is elevated perhaps 8 feet above the front approach area. The hole is simply not meant to be played this long. The dark green area in the center of the image indicated the front approaches and the rise can be seen.

Hole #16: Par 4, 390 yards
This mid length par 4 plays quite a bit down hill from one of the highest points on the course; the 13th green is directly behind this tee and is slightly higher, but this is the highest elevated tee. A pond down the right side provides a heavy penalty for shots hit too far right and there is a drainage creek that crosses the fairway around 50 yards short of the green. Long hitters are certainly able to reach the creek given how far downhill the hole plays. The shot to the green must be played with precision because the green falls off sharply beyond the hole and to the left. This hole gives the player a chance for birdie before two rather difficult closing holes.
 From the tee, the City of Mobile can be seen in the distance and give the player a quality view. Any shot starting right of the edge of the trees down the right will either need to hook left or get a luck break in order to stay out of the pond.
From the bottom of the hill, near the drainage creek, the green sits in front of the player, significantly elevated above the fairway.

Overall, this is a fair golf course. It's not a great course, but the operators do not try to pretend so. This is just a fair golf course for a fair price. More courses like this are needed today. 3 out of 10

Friday, December 14, 2012

Template Holes of the Macdonald School: The Biarritz

The Biarritz is one of the four standard par three holes used by the designers in the Macdonald School of design, Charles Blair Macdonald, Seth Raynor, and Charles Banks. This hole was typically intended to be the longest par three on the course, sometimes out to 220 yards, a significant distance today much less in the 1920's and 1930's. The idea of the hole is that the green has a large front tier and a large back tier with a fairly deep depression between them.

The idea with this hole is that the player should be face with a long enough shot that he must land the shot at the front of the green and run it through the depression in order to reach the back of the green. Like many of the holes built by Macdonald, this hole style is not used very often in modern days due to the shift of golf from a running shot game to an aerial shot game.

There are two basic types of the biarritz, seen in the images below:
This one pictured above is from St. Louis Country Club and is maintained with the front plateau as part of the green. This allows the club to cut the pin on the front portion of the green and mandate the player land short of the green in the approach if he desires to roll the ball onto the green.


This one, from Chicago Golf Club, only maintains the the rear plateau as green. The front plateau and the depression are all maintained at fairway height. This mandates the player land the shot short of the depression on the fairway cut in order to run the ball back to the hole.

The newest Biarritz built, the 8th hole at Old Macdonald in Bandon, OR, is much shorter than the old standard and is meant to be approached with low running shots using mid-irons. Hardly the hole of year's past. The hole is a solid hole in it's own right, but not the long yardage hole with very long green and deep depression like many might have expected.

Overall, this is a superb hole type. If a hole of this nature were to be built today, however, it would need to be built out to 250+ yards in order to challenge the best players with fairway woods or drivers. Indeed, a Biarritz hole is in play on the PGA Tour, at The Old White TPC at The Greenbrier, and those golfers are approaching the hole with high lofted shots from middle irons, rather than low, running shots from long irons and fairway woods. Perhaps one day designers will take the risk and build another of these holes as it was meant to be played.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Arcadian Shores Golf Club- Myrtle Beach, SC

This is a solid golf course that was ranked in the Top 100 in America by Golf Digest in the 70's. The course has lost a bit of luster since then, perhaps the course conditions are not as good as they once were and the designer, Rees Jones, is no longer a preferred name in the design business. The course is a decent combination of holes, but none of the holes are much above average. This is not a bad course by any stretch of the imagination, it just lacks anything better than average and even with it's prior pedigree, likely gets lost in the shuffle of the other courses in Myrtle Beach

Ranking
Variety of Design: This course falls into the rut of many courses built during it's era. All the holes on the course fit nicely in little "safe" yardage groups, none very long, none very short. Directionally, the course is average at best with 4 holes playing left, 2 holes playing right, and 12 holes playing straight. 4 1/4 out of 10

Flow of the Course: This course has little flow. There are no short holes to give the player great chances at birdie or eagle. There are no very long holes to mandate the player hit precise shots in order to make a par. At no point does the course provide anything of real excitement. There is nothing below average here, but nothing to get the blood flowing either. 4 out of 10

Course Conditioning: The conditioning was what one would expect when paying one of the lowest fares in town. The fairways were reasonable and the greens average. 4 3/4 out of 10

Ease of Walking: The course is very flat, most holes are fairly close together and the course is not very long in general, so walking would not be difficult. 7 out of 10

Atmosphere: The course might get a slight boost from those who really take time to research courses and know that it was previously in the Golf Digest Top 100. Other than that, the course has no known significant tournament history and much of it's luster has worn off. 2 out of 10

Total: 43 1/4 out of 100

Holes to Note
Hole #1: Par 5, 527 yards
Par 5's are not often used as opening holes, but this one is a solid hole. This hole plays as a slight dogleg left to a green that is heavily bunkered. The play for those who want to go at the green on the second shot is to play over or as close as possible to the bunkers on the left side of the fairway. That will give the shorter shot to the green. Those players not able to reach in two can play to the right away from the bunkers. For those not going at the green in two shots, the lay-up shot should be played down the far right of the fairway in order to have a better angle to the pin.
 From the tee, the bunker is visible on the left and the fairway is easily seen.

 From 250 yards from the green, the greenside bunkers can be seen. The entire left side of the green is protected by bunkers, but a roll-up shot is possible.

 A closer view shows how protected the green is and the difficulty of the shot awaiting the player.

Hole #2: Par 3, 201 yards
This hole is a perfect example of what the course was and what it has become. This is a fantastic hole, very scenic and provides solid strategic challenge. The lake protects the hole on the right and there is a bunker guarding the hole from the left. Very solid hole. However, look beyond the hole. There is a shopping mall now in the background. At one point in this, this was likely a very solid, secluded hole. Now there is such encroachment from the rest of civilization to make the hole simply average.

Hole #9: Par 4, 376 yards
This is a solid hole to close out the front nine. One reasonable strength of this course is it's shorter par 4's. There are bunkers located down the left side of the hole. It is not known the purpose of those bunkers, they don't seem to be in the range of any golfer playing the proper set of tees, even if playing the course in a strong wind from the south. However, they certainly steer play to the right side of the fairway which will yield a poor approach angle to the green.
 From the tee, the bunker down the left is plainly visible. The player should favor that left hand side in order to have the preferred line to the green.

From the left side of the fairway, the player is able to take the front bunker out of play more so than from the right. This is another hole that will easily accept a roll-up shot.

Hole #12: Par 4, 382 yards
Another solid shorter par 4. Play on this hole is directed by the right fairway bunker. A slightly better line to the green can be had from the right side. The green complex is fairly well designed as well. There is one large fronting bunker that protects the green. The green is elevated and is essentially not accepting of roll-up shots (though that is not 100% the case. My playing partner rolled his shot onto the green from around 180 yards with a hybrid, but that was not intentional, nor was he pleased with the shot)
 The bunker can be seen in this image. Truthfully, the bunker could be removed and no strategic value lost on this hole. A play down the left side will give the player a shorter approach shot with the same angle as the right.

 The green is elevated and protected by this large bunker, making it impossible for the player to see the bottom of the flagstick. The green is well contoured on top of that. This is probably the best green complex on the course.

Hole #13: Par 4, 408 yards
While this hole is not the best on the course, it is certainly the most scenic. The hole plays downhill with a dogleg left. There are no bunkers on the hole, so the best play favors the left side of the fairway, giving the player a shorter approach to the hole. The approach to the green is the most scenic on the course, playing over a lake to a green cut into a hill.
 Nothing major happening from the tee. The left side is preferred, but there will be no harm in finding the right side of the fairway.
The green and approach is quite scenic. Any missed shots short, left or right will find water and long will find a bunker, playing directly back towards the water. 

This course is simply average. This is nothing bad here, but nothing really above average. The course is fun to play and a place I would play again, but it's just not anything special. 4 out of 10

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Upcoming Posts

So mostly to keep myself in line, here is a listing of what's upcoming here:

Thursday December 13: Course Review- Arcadian Shores Golf Club
Friday December 14: Template Hole discussion- Biarritz
Saturday December 15: Course Review- Spring Hill Golf Course
Monday December 17: Template Hole Discussion- The Island
Wednesday December 19: Course Review- Stonehouse Golf Club
Friday December 21: General Opinion article

Once those are done, I'll probably take a little break for Christmas and write two or three more posts before the New Year. Keep reading and enjoy.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Dunes Golf & Beach Club- Myrtle Beach, SC

This is a classic Robert Trent Jones designed golf course, opened in 1949. It is also one of the oldest golf courses in Myrtle Beach. This course shows what Jones could do when given good sites, though it is not up to the level of Peachtree, which opened one year prior. The Dunes lacks the width and overall strategic value that Peachtree has, but features variety, walkability, and flow that many of his later courses lack. Overall, this course is quite nice and deserving of the Top 100 ranking it once had.

Ranking
Variety of Design: The par 3's have modest variety. The longest is 245 yards, which is certainly among the longest a golfer will ever see. However, the shortest is 185 yards, with two in the middle playing 205 and 200 yards. Add in the normal summer wind from the south and the variety decreases even more with both of the 200 yard hole playing the same direction and the 185 yard hole playing exactly opposite. Par 4's have solid variety, ranging from 465 to 365 yards, though the lengths are concentrated more at the upper end around 425 yards. The par 5's have solid variety as well, from the reachable in two 4th hole to the solid 3 shot 13th. Directionally, the course has 3 holes playing left, 2 holes playing right, and 13 holes playing straight, however, only once do two holes play in the same direction back to back, so the wind will come into play differently on every hole. 7 3/4 out of 10

Flow of the Course: Very good. The course starts off gently, before the par 5 4th hole provides a high point early. The front nine continues steadily from there before the back nine starts off with the finest 4 hole stretch of RTJ holes that I have seen. The course then ends with fantastic holes on 16 and 18, with a good par 3 17th sandwiched in between. 7 1/2 out of 10

Course Conditioning: Good. This course was played during the late fall season, after the course had been seeded with rye grass. However, the fairways were still solidly grassed and the course played nicely firm. The bent grass greens were quite nice and ran very true. 7 1/4 out of 10

Ease of Walking: Very good. Most holes have very short transitions to the next tee and the course is not very hilly. 6 1/2 out of 10

Atmosphere: Solid, but nothing special. The course gets a bit of a boost due to being a private club that allows outside play and because it is one of the oldest courses in Myrtle Beach. 4 1/4 out of 10

Total: 71 out of 100

Holes to Note
Hole #1: Par 4, 425 yards
This solid opening hole has a fairway bunker guarding the right side of the fairway. However, the bunker only guards the hole when the hole is cut on the left side of the green. When the hole is cut right, the preferred play is down the left. This is a fair opening hole and with two quality shots, the player should have a reasonable chance to make birdie to start the round.
 From the tee, the fairway bunker is visible as are the greenside bunkers.
 From the right side of the fairway, the flanking bunkers are visible short of the green. This side provides the best angle of approach to holes cut on the left side of the green.

Hole #4: Par 5, 505 yards
This is a fantastic hole with strategic options on all shots. From the tee, the player must decide if he wants to challenge the bunkers and try to go for the green in two shots. If the player desires to lay short of them, a shot of not more than 240 yards is needed. Shots between 240 and 265 yards can be played into the narrow fairway to the right of the bunkers. A player who wants to play over the bunkers will need to hit a shot that carries at least 275 yards. Players who play short of the bunker will certainly be laying up but those who played to the side, might try to go at the green, needing a shot of 240-250 yards to make the center of the green. Players who carried the bunkers are looking at 190-210 yards to the center of the green. This hole provides a great chance to make a birdie early on to the player who plays within his limitations.
 From the tee, the options are clear to the player who is able to see them.
 This is the view from over the bunkers in the fairway, roughly 200 yards from the green. The water short of the green will make even the best player think about going for the green in two.
Hole #9: Par 3, 200 yards
This par 3 surrounded by bunkers provides the player the only view of the ocean on the golf course. Almost a shame, really, that this course wasn't able to be played down in the dunes. The hole itself is a quality end to the front nine, mandating the player hit a quality shot with a helping wind.
 There will certainly be no roll-up shots played here.
 Looking right from the green, the Atlantic Ocean is visible beyond the club.

Hole #10: par 4, 380 yards
This mid-short par 4 starts off the back nine. The hole plays straight off the tee towards a water hazard that cuts the fairway short. The fairway also narrows significantly at around 260 yards from the tee, bottlenecking down then widening out prior to the hazard. The hole then plays significantly uphill to the green. The way the hole is laid out, flat from the tee, fairway the runs out, large, undulated and well defended green, reminds me of the second hole at Pine Valley in New Jersey. This hole is a great starter for the back nine.
 The pond up close in this image is only 75 yards from the tee. The bunkers in the distance are protecting the green. The best play is towards the pair of bunkers in the center of the image.
 From roughly 135 yards from the green, the pond fronting the green is visible, as is the pinch in the fairway. The player must add roughly one club given the uphill nature of the hole.

Hole #11: Par 4, 430 yards
A very solid dogleg right that plays with water down the entire right side. The fairway bunker can be reached from the tee and is there to keep the player from bailing out far left. To the green, the player must be mindful that the green is virtually on a peninsula and that any shot not struck well will likely find the water.
 From the tee, the best line is slightly right of the bunker, but the player has to guard against fading the ball too much off that line, otherwise he will find himself in the water.
 From 200 yards out, the green provides a very small target and the water is especially in play.
 This view, from around 140 yards, shows how exposed the green is.

Hole #12: Par 3, 245 yards
Long par 3, all carry over the water. This hole is very solid and incredibly difficult. A score of 3 here will draw no complaints from any golfer.

Hole #13: Par 5, 590 yards
This is a very difficult par 5 with water coming into play on the tee shot and second shot. From the tee, the player needs to be mindful that any shot to the right will find the water and that the fairway narrows down significantly for players who are capable of hitting tee shots over 300 yards. On the second shot, the hole is basically a Cape hole, giving the player the chance to play as far out to the right as he desires in effort to cut down the length of approach shot to the green.
 The fairway is visible from the tee. Any shot right of the cluster of trees on the right will certainly find the water.
 From the fairway, the player can go as far right as he desires. From here, a shot played directly over the hazard stake will need to carry 180 yards to find the fairway on the other side. Ultra aggressive players who choose to go over directly towards the left greenside bunker will need to carry the ball around 230 yards to find the fairway.
Hole #16: Par 4, 365 yards
The shortest par 4 on the course is also one of the better ones. A fairway bunker 235 yards off the tee pinches down the fairway to only 15 yards wide. Beyond the bunker, the fairway dips down into a fairly deep depression before rising back up to the green. The green is heavily bunkered, being surrounded by 7 bunkers and the greensite strongly resembles the 7th at Augusta National, a course that Mr. Jones renovated just three years prior to the opening of The Dunes. This hole provides a great opportunity for birdie late in the round for the player who knows his limitations.
 From the tee, the bunker is visible in the distance on the right side of the fairway. The safe play is to lay back short of it, possibly 225 yards off the tee.
 From just beyond the bunker, you can see how the hole dips down prior to rising back up to the fantastic green complex. There will certainly be no rolling the ball up onto this green.
Hole #18: Par 4, 430 yards
This is a great closing hole. It is one of the few real dogleg holes on the course and one that will be played into the summer prevailing wind. The player should try to get his tee shot into the left side of the fairway so that he can have a shorter approach shot. From the fairway, the player will need to play a shot to a green surrounded by bunkers with a fronting water hazard. The player must retain his concentration until the final shot here.
 The spot where the trees begin to get shorter in the distance, just left of the center of the image, is the perfect aiming spot from the tee with the right to left summer wind.
The scenic green can be clearly seen here, around 125 yards from the green. This is no easy approach shot with a middle or long iron in your hands. 

Overall, this is a very good course. It has quality in the routing and design features that are sadly lacking from many of Mr. Jones's later courses. It would likely not take much work for this course to find the American Top 100 yet again. 6 out of 10, and a strong 6 at that.