Sunday, January 31, 2010

Courses I Would Love to Play

I want to start off by stealing a line from the mission statement over at The London Golfer:

I do not intend to play the world's top 100 golf courses

Sure, I'd love to play as many of the top tracks in the world and any opportunity that arises to play a highly-ranked course will be strongly considered and likely acted upon with great appreciation.

That being said, playing courses of this magnitude is usually expensive, first and foremost and secondly, takes a lot of time if it involves travel. When you're running a business to support your family and get only a few waking hours each weekday with your wife and infant son, money and time are precious commodities.

Thankfully, I have an awesome wife who sympathizes with my golf addiction and fully supports the occasional golf getaway.

Okay, on to the list -

I fully expect this post to evolve over time and I will update it as need be, whether it's to add a course to the list or to cross one off that I end up playing.

This is not meant to be a definitive list of every course I want to play - that list would go on forever. Instead, this list only includes the courses that I'd be hard pressed to decline an invitation even on short notice, regardless of price OR courses I'd book an entire trip around just to play.

THE NO-BRAINERS:

- Augusta National Golf Club, Augusta, Georgia, USA
- Cypress Point Club, Pebble Beach, California, USA
- Merion Golf Club, Ardmore, Pennsylvania, USA
- Oak Hill Country Club, Rochester, New York, USA
- Pine Valley Golf Club, Pine Valley, New Jersey, USA (shown below)

An invitation received to play any of these clubs would almost certainly be accepted and acted upon even on the shortest of notice. I'd likely be on a plane or on the road that night even if the tee time was less than 24 hours away.

There are a couple of things all these courses have in common: first of all, almost every one of them are ranked in the top 10 in numerous publications either in the US or Canada. The ones that aren't, like Oak Hill, are within easy driving distance from the Niagara Region here in Ontario. Secondly, they are all intensely private clubs where invitations are few and far between.

The rest of the courses on my list would be places I'd likely try to build a trip or vacation around.

ALBERTA, CANADA:

- Banff Springs Golf Course, Banff, Alberta, CANADA (shown below)
- Jasper Park Lodge Golf Course, Jasper, Alberta, CANADA
- Blackhawk Golf Club, Spruce Grove, Alberta, CANADA

If I'm ever back in the province, I'll likely extend the stay and play Kananaskis Country Golf Course, where they have two courses ranked inside the top 100 in Canada (Mount Kidd and Mount Lorette). Blackhawk is a Rod Whitman design in the Edmonton area.

AUSTRALIA:

- Barnbougle Dunes, Bridport, Tasmania, AUSTRALIA
- Kingston Heath Golf Club, Cheltenham, Victoria, AUSTRALIA
- Lost Farm, Bridport, Tasmania, AUSTRALIA
- New South Wales Golf Club, La Perouse, New South Wales, AUSTRALIA
- Royal Melbourne Golf Club, Black Rock, Victoria, AUSTRALIA (shown below)

At some point in my life, I hope to make a trip down under to take in some of the best golf on the planet. Royal Melbourne is the jewel of the Sand Belt and Kingston Heath is right around the corner from what I understand. New South Wales has some of the most picturesque views in all of golf with many holes hugging the coastline. All three of those courses are private but like the great courses in Europe, these gems will all accept limited unaccompanied guest play with a proper introduction.

Tasmania is home to Barnbougle Dunes, which is soon to be a 36-hole resort featuring Lost Farm, the very highly anticipated Coore/Crenshaw design which is set to open at the end of 2010.

BRITISH COLUMBIA, CANADA:

- Capilano Golf & Country Club, West Vancouver, British Columbia, CANADA

Capilano is another of Stanley Thompson's finest designs. When I head back to Sagebrush Golf & Sporting Club again, I'll likely look into accessing Capilano and perhaps Shaughnessy Golf & Country Club as well.

CALIFORNIA, USA:

- Los Angeles Country Club, Los Angeles, California, USA
- The Olympic Club, San Francisco, California, USA
- San Francisco Golf Club, San Francisco, California, USA
- Spyglass Hill Golf Course, Pebble Beach, California, USA

California is a big state so you definitely have to plan a Northern California vacation and one for Southern California as well.

Northern California is home to the Monterey Peninsula, where I was fortunate enough to play Pebble Beach and MPCC (Shore) in 2013. Cypress Point is ultra private and a very tough course to access while Spyglass Hill is a resort course, open to the public but extremely expensive. There are two private clubs in the San Francisco area I'd love to play as well in The Olympic Club's Lake Course and San Francisco Golf Club, another tough course to get an invite to. During my 2013 trip, I was lucky enough to play the Cal Club in South San Francisco and the delightful Pasatiempo GC in Santa Cruz.

In Southern California, LACC is a very exclusive private club that I actually turned down a chance to play while playing Riviera CC in 2007. If I was in the area and had a chance to play it again, I wouldn't turn down the invitation. I'd likely play Riviera again in the area and also try to play private clubs like Bel Air CC and Sherwood CC and perhaps publics like Rustic Canyon GC.

FLORIDA, USA:

- TPC at Sawgrass, Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, USA

There's not much else in Florida that I need to see other than Pete Dye's most famous design, the Stadium Course, home of the Players Championship on the PGA Tour. Perhaps Seminole GC, an ultra-private club in North Palm Beach. Maybe World Woods (Pine Barrens Course) in Brooksville but that's about it.

IRELAND:

- Ballybunion Golf Club, Ballybunion, IRELAND
- Enniscrone Golf Club, Enniscrone, IRELAND
- Lahinch Golf Club, Lahinch, IRELAND
- Old Head Golf Links, Kinsale, IRELAND
- Royal County Down Golf Club, Newcastle, N. IRELAND (shown below)
- Royal Portrush Golf Club, Portrush, N. IRELAND

This is probably the trip I want to take more than any other. In fact, getting the chance to experience Royal County Down may be right at the top of my list. This is a trip that will likely take two weeks to do the right way or will require multiple visits due to the fact there are places both in Ireland and Northern Ireland that I want to see. A number of other courses deserve mention and I'm sure I will play others that aren't listed above but these are the ones I really want to see.

NEW YORK, USA:

- Friar's Head, Baiting Hollow, New York, USA

New York, like Michigan, is chalk full of great golf courses, many of which have hosted major championships. There are a few other New York State courses listed in the 'No Brainers' section. They are all very private, as is Friar's Head and there are a couple other notable private clubs in the state, like Fisher's Island and Sleepy Hollow.

NEW ZEALAND:

- Cape Kidnappers, Hawkes Bay, NEW ZEALAND (shown below)
- Kauri Cliffs, Matauri Bay, NEW ZEALAND

New Zealand would definitely be a stop on any trip down to Australia and Cape Kidnappers and Kauri Cliffs are two of the most picturesque places on the planet. CK has a similar look to Tobiano in British Columbia, a course I played for the first time in 2009, with fingers of land sitting well above a body of water. Both CK and KC host the annual Kiwi Challenge, a silly season event usually featuring four young up-and-comers on the PGA Tour.

NORTH CAROLINA, USA:

- Pinehurst Resort, Pinehurst, North Carolina, USA
- Tobacco Road, Sanford, North Carolina, USA (shown below)

The #2 Course at Pinehurst is a historic course and the facility itself is enormous. It seems that every true golf fan has to make this pilgrimage at some point in their life. Tobacco Road is another Mike Strantz design, another public track like Pinehurst but one that is a very polarizing design. Many hate the course, many love it. That's Strantz for you! A couple of other notable courses in NC include Pine Needles and Mid Pines, part of the same resort in Southern Pines.

NOVA SCOTIA, CANADA:

- Cabot Links, Inverness, Nova Scotia, CANADA
- Cape Breton Highlands Links, Ingonish Beach, Nova Scotia, CANADA

Highlands Links (shown above) has always been ranked near the top of the ScoreGolf ranking of Canadian courses and it looks like I'm finally going to get my opportunity to play this esteemed course in 2012. I will be in Newfoundland on a business conference that year (yes, some things are planned that far in advance) and I'll likely extend my stay to venture out to Cape Breton to play Highlands and also Cabot Links, a Rod Whitman and Ran Morrissett collaboration which isn't completed yet. I'll likely also try to play Crowbush Cove in Prince Edward Island and perhaps Humber Valley Golf Resort in Newfoundland, assuming it will still be operational (they are having liquidity issues from what I understand).

OHIO, USA:

- The Golf Club, New Albany, Ohio, USA
- The Inverness Club, Toledo, Ohio, USA

I had the pleasure of visiting some of Ohio's best courses in July 2011, including Scioto CC and Muirfield Village, shown above. I definitely would like to return someday and play a few courses we didn't see the first time, like Pete Dye's The Golf Club and the Donald Ross classic Inverness. I'd also like to visit Firestone Country Club in Akron, the home of the WGC Bridgestone Invitational. The very private Double Eagle GC is also a possibility.

SCOTLAND:

- Carnoustie Golf Links, Carnoustie, SCOTLAND
- Cruden Bay Golf Club, Cruden Bay, SCOTLAND
- Kingsbarns Golf Links, St. Andrews, SCOTLAND
- North Berwick Golf Club, North Berwick, SCOTLAND
- The Old Course at St. Andrews, St. Andrews, SCOTLAND (shown below)
- Royal Dornoch Golf Club, Dornoch, SCOTLAND
- Turnberry Golf Resort, Turnberry, SCOTLAND

I could probably list about 20 courses I'd love to see in Scotland and any trip there would likely have to be two full weeks in order to see as much as possible. In addition to the great courses listed above, I'd likely also try to see places like Machrihanish GC, The Castle Course at St. Andrews, Muirfield GC (very private though) and Castle Stuart GL, among others.

SOUTH CAROLINA, USA:

- Harbour Town Golf Links, Hilton Head, South Carolina, USA (shown below)

I'd likely try to play some golf in Georgia if I was visiting South Carolina, with courses like Cuscowilla GC, Peachtree GC and East Lake all hopeful destinations. I won't hold my breath on Augusta National but a man can dream...

WISCONSIN, USA:

- Blackwolf Run, Kohler, Wisconsin, USA
- Whistling Straits, Haven, Wisconsin, USA

The American Club Resort in Kohler, Wisconsin is home to four world class golf courses. Blackwolf Run's River Course is joined by the Meadow Valleys course at the resort and just a few miles away in Haven sits Whistling Straits, with the famous Straits Course (host of the 2010 PGA Championship and shown above) and Irish Course on that site. Very expensive golf but open to the public. I've also heard great things about Milwaukee Country Club.

MISCELLANEOUS COURSES:

- Kapalua (Plantation Course), Kapalua, Hawaii, USA
- Redtail Golf Course, St. Thomas, Ontario, CANADA
- Rock Creek Cattle Company, Deer Lodge, Montana, USA

I'll likely be crossing Redtail off this list in 2010, as I expect to spend a day there sometime this summer. The other courses here are all quite remote or located in places I'm not likely to visit off the cuff - I mean, really...when am I ever going to be in Montana? Tom Doak's Rock Creek (shown above) looks tremendous but barring a long weekend invitation, there is no chance of me getting out there.

COURSES I'VE CROSSED OFF THE BUCKET LIST...BUT WOULD RETURN TO IN A HEARTBEAT!

- Arcadia Bluffs Golf Club, Arcadia, Michigan, USA PLAYED IN 2014
- Ballyneal Golf & Hunt Club, Holyoke, Colorado, USA PLAYED IN 2010, 2012 & 2013
- Bandon Dunes, Bandon, Oregon, USA PLAYED IN 2011
- Bandon Trails, Bandon, Oregon, USA PLAYED IN 2011
- Bethpage State Park - Black Course, Farmingdale, New York, USA PLAYED IN 2011
- California Golf Club of San Francisco, South San Francisco, California, USA PLAYED IN 2013
- Crystal Downs Country Club, Frankfort, Michigan, USA PLAYED IN 2014
- Devil's Paintbrush, Caledon East, Ontario, CANADA PLAYED IN 2013
- Hamilton Golf & Country Club, Ancaster, Ontario, CANADA PLAYED IN 2010
- Monterey Peninsula Country Club - Shore Course, Pebble Beach, California, USA PLAYED IN 2013
- Kiawah Island Golf Resort - Ocean Course, Kiawah Island, South Carolina, USA PLAYED IN 2014
- Kingsley Club, Kingsley, Michigan, USA PLAYED IN 2014
- Muirfield Village Golf Club, Dublin, Ohio, USA PLAYED IN 2011
- National Golf Club of Canada, Woodbridge, Ontario, CANADA PLAYED IN 2011
- National Golf Links of America, Southampton, New York, USA PLAYED IN 2011
- Oakland Hills Country Club - South Course, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, USA PLAYED IN 2014
- Oakmont Country Club, Oakmont, Pennsylvania, USA PLAYED IN 2007
- Old Macdonald, Bandon, Oregon, USA PLAYED IN 2011
- Pacific Dunes, Bandon, Oregon, USA PLAYED IN 2011
- Pasatiempo Golf Club, Santa Cruz, California, USA PLAYED IN 2013
- Pebble Beach Golf Links, Pebble Beach, California, USA PLAYED IN 2013
- Riviera Country Club, Pacific Palisades, California, USA PLAYED IN 2007
- Sand Hills Golf Club, Mullen, Nebraska, USA PLAYED IN 2010
- Scioto Country Club, Columbus, Ohio, USA PLAYED IN 2011
- Sebonack, Southampton, New York, USA PLAYED IN 2011
- Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, Southampton, New York, USA PLAYED IN 2013
- St. George's Golf & Country Club, Etobicoke, Ontario, CANADA PLAYED IN 2012
- Winged Foot Golf Club, Mamaroneck, New York, USA PLAYED IN 2013
- The Course at Yale, New Haven, Connecticut, USA PLAYED IN 2013

So there is the list, an exhaustive one at that! I look forward to hearing your comments - what have I not included that should be on my dream list? What have you played on this list that you feel shouldn't be on the list?

Hope to hear from everyone who visits!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Anarchist’s Guide to Golf Course Architecture

I've recently had the pleasure of exchanging a couple emails with Armen Suny, one of the co-designers of the wonderful Sagebrush Golf & Sporting Club in British Columbia along with Rod Whitman and Richard Zokol.

Armen has a background as one of the top superintendents in the world, working for such historic courses as Merion, Cherry Hills and Castle Pines, has been a Tournament Director for the International, the former PGA Tour event famous for utilizing the Stableford scoring system and now has ventured into the design world as part of Suny Zokol Golf Design.

His new blog, Anarchist’s Guide to Golf Course Architecture, offers his thoughts on architecture and golf course maintenance and will likely serve as an outlet for him to showcase his design ideas and his sketch work.

The photo above is his sketch of the 16th green at Sagebrush, the largest on the course at well over 20,000 square feet.

His blog-opening essay on architecture and the follow up post on firm and fast conditioning are required reading for architecture junkies and superintendents alike.

Best of luck to Armen with the blog and with his future design work. I'll be following along!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

My Dream 18 - GCA Mock Draft

There was a very interesting thread over in the discussion group at Golf Club Atlas that I participated in recently.

27 guys participated in a fantasy draft, picking our 'Dream Course' a hole at a time, making sure each existing hole fits into the same place on our course (ie: 1st hole must be 1st hole, etc) as it does in real life.

Here were the ground rules, as laid out by Jim Colton from Wegoblogger31:

  • Build a Dream 18-hole course by picking corresponding 1st-18th holes from real courses
  • Pick holes in any order to fill out your course
  • No restriction to par (build a par 90 for all I care) or designer, but one person can only pick three holes from any one course. Obviously once a hole is picked it's off the board.
  • The same course can be picked in the same round by other participants (or by the same guy in a round w/ multiple picks)
  • Snake draft with 20-24 guys (or more if there's strong interest)
  • Same format as last time -- make a pick by posting to the thread, send the next guy a PM and tell him he's on the clock
  • Eight rounds:
    the first 2 rounds - 1 hole per pick
    next 2 rounds - 2 holes per pick
    next 4 rounds - 3 holes per pick

I had my own ground rules as well - I wasn't going to pick more than one hole from any particular course. Also, I wanted my list to only represent holes and courses where I *really* wanted to play and would likely drop everything in a moment's notice if I got the invitation to play that particular place. I got pretty lucky right off the bat, drawing the second overall pick in the draft. Much better luck than I ever have in most drafts I take part in, let me tell you! The first guy picked a hole from Crystal Downs, a Michigan private club so I was able to get my first choice right off the bat.

#16 - Cypress Point Club Pebble Beach, CA, USA Par 3 231 Yards Architect: Alister MacKenzie and Robert Hunter (1928)

My choice for the most spectacular piece of real estate in golf. The par three 16th is a brute right on the ocean, a 230+ yard carry over water to the green, which is in the foreground in the first picture with the tee hidden from view on the left. The second picture represents what the golfer sees from the tee. Cypress Point, rated 4th overall in the US by Golf Digest, is a very exclusive private club in the Monterey Peninsula and I can only hope I get the chance to tee it up there someday. I had to wait a heck of a long time to make my second choice in the snake draft and hoped that a hole like #13 at Augusta or #3 at Royal County Down would fall to me. Alas, both were taken early in the first round by other astute participants. No matter, as I was quite happy to get my next choice. 

#13 - Pacific Dunes Bandon, OR, USA Par 4 444 Yards Architect: Tom Doak (2001)

The 13th at Pacific Dunes may just well be the most thrilling hole on the entire Bandon Dunes Resort. A long par four that plays even longer than the yardage due to the prevailing winds being in the player's face, the golfer must avoid both the ocean on the left and the enormous, sandy dunes on the right. I don't know if there is a better resort in the entire world than Bandon Dunes, with Pac Dunes (rated 14th in the US by Golf Digest), Bandon Dunes (33rd in US), Bandon Trails (80th in US) and the brand spanking new Old MacDonald (another Tom Doak course like PD) opening this spring. I can't wait until I get the chance to visit this place but I'm almost positive it will be sometime during their offseason in order to save money. That pretty much means I won't be playing with Harry, as he only seems interested in going if the weather is perfect, which is impossible to predict on the Oregon coast. I got to pick my next two holes in rapid succession in the snake draft. 

#1 - St. Andrews (Old Course) St. Andrews, Scotland Par 4 376 Yards Architect: "Nature"

Perhaps the most famous opening hole in golf. There's nothing remarkable about the hole, which shares a fairway with the 18th and may be one of the widest in all of golf. You have to cross the famous Swilcan Burn on the approach, which crosses right in front of the putting surface. A future trip to Scotland would have to revolve around a game at the Home of Golf, which is ranked #2 by Golf Digest in their 'Outside of US' list. 

#6 - Riviera Country Club Pacific Palisades, CA, USA Par 3 175 Yards Architect: George C. Thomas (1926)

My strategy was to obviously gather up my par threes as quickly as possible and I had to have Riviera, rated 31st in the US, represented on my Dream 18. The short par four 10th would have been my first choice but it was taken early in the first round so I decided to go with the bold par three sixth, notable for the bunker in the middle of the green. This could have come off as a gimmick but Thomas and associate Billy Bell did a brilliant job designing a green that allowed players to putt the ball around the bunker to get to pin positions. One of three holes on my list that I've actually played. Another long wait until my fourth round picks but I'd again get pretty fortunate with my choices. 

#9 - Turnberry (Ailsa Course) Turnberry, Scotland Par 4 449 Yards Architect: Willie Fernie (1909)

The 9th hole on the Ailsa Course, rated 5th by Golf Digest in their 'rest of world' list, was a torture chamber in the 2009 British Open. A long, forced carry over the ocean to a crowned fairway and a very difficult green. It's a brute but perhaps one of the more scenic holes in golf, with the famous lighthouse off to the left. This choice was notable, as famous architect Tom Doak, himself a participant on GCA and in this mock draft, listed this pick as one of his 18 'Overrated' picks. Put down by one of the best! :) He did put two of my picks on his 'Inspired' list though so I forgive him ;) 

#5 - Royal Portrush (Dunluce Course) Portrush, Northern Ireland Par 4 411 Yards Architect: Harry Colt (1888)

Royal Portrush, rated 4th by Golf Digest in their 'Outside of US' list, is represented on my list by their 5th hole, called one of the most inspiring holes in the game by Golf Club Atlas' Ran Morrissett and also one of the three best bunkerless holes in golf, which is high praise indeed. Another quick turnaround into the fifth round, where we now made three choices.

#10 - Augusta National GC Augusta, GA, USA Par 4 495 Yards Architect: Alister MacKenzie and Bobby Jones (1933)

Along with Royal County Down in Northern Ireland, there is no other course in the world I'd like to see more than Augusta National, the #1 course in the US according to Golf Digest. Yeah, I'd obviously love to play it but there's pretty much no chance of that ever happening. However, one day I'm hoping to see the Masters in person so I can walk these hallowed grounds for the first time. There are so many notable holes out there but the 10th has always appealed to me with the downhill, right to left tee shot and the second shot, likely from a downhill stance to a long, narrowish green that falls off severely to the left hand side. Mike Weir's greatest moment in golf happened right there on that green in 2003, tapping in for bogey no less! 

#4 - Banff Springs GC Banff, AB, Canada Par 3 200 Yards Architect: Stanley Thompson (1928)

The 4th hole at Banff Springs, ranked 52nd by Golf Digest on the 'Outside of US' list, is likely Canada's most notable par three. Nicknamed "Devils Cauldron", the shot is hit from way up high to a green protected by water in front and deep bunkers all around, with the glorious Rocky Mountains and tall fir trees providing backdrop. I'm going to make plans to play this golf course in 2011 while in Alberta on business. 

#18 - Oakmont CC Oakmont, PA, USA Par 4 484 Yards Architect: Henry Fownes (1903)

I actually chose the 18th at Harbour Town first in this slot but ended up making a swap at the end of the draft, knowing I wanted a hole from Oakmont, rated #5 in the US by Golf Digest, on my list. To this day, Oakmont is the best golf course I've ever had the pleasure of playing (that's me in the picture above, second from left with buddies Jon, Harry and Preston) and the 18th is likely one of the toughest finishers in major championship golf. 484 yards off a slightly elevated tee but the approach is the doozy here - the green has a false front and there are incredible swales and slopes on this putting surface, enough to cause me to four putt when I had the chance to play the course a couple months after the 2007 US Open. Another long wait until the sixth and seventh rounds but I pretty much got the holes I wanted. 

#8 - Royal County Down GC Newcastle, Northern Ireland Par 4 430 Yards Architect: Old Tom Morris (1889)

As mentioned earlier, there may not be a course in the world I want to play more than Royal County Down in Northern Ireland, rated as the best course outside the US by Golf Digest. While I wanted the 3rd hole from RCD, the 8th was a worthy substitute. A tough driving hole is made even more difficult by the fact that the green falls off severely at the back, something not seen from the fairway. This green was moved about seventy yards further from Morris' original greensite about 30 years after the course was layed out. This was one of the two holes I picked that made Tom Doak's list of most inspired choices in the draft. I will eventually make the pilgrimage to Northern Ireland and any trip there will be planned around at least two games at Royal County Down. 

#15 - Cape Breton Highlands Links Ingonish Beach, NS, Canada Par 5 540 Yards Architect: Stanley Thompson (1939)

Ranked 42nd by Golf Digest in their 'Courses outside US' rating, Cape Breton Highlands is one of Stanley Thompson's Canadian masterpieces. The 15th is a tumbling downhill par five played on rumpled terrain with the sea providing a gorgeous backdrop. Ian Andrew is working on restoring this course to its former glory, as trees have taken over what once was the country's best links course. Conditioning is poor and opening up the views will not only help improve the backdrops but also help give needed sunlight to the turf. One of Canada's finest designs and one I'm hoping to play in the next couple of years, as I'm expecting business to take me to the east coast of Canada by 2012. 

#14 - Jasper Park Lodge GC Jasper, AB, Canada Par 4 361 Yards Architect: Stanley Thompson (1925)

Another Stanley Thompson gem, albeit one that isn't listed in the Golf Digest list of Top 100 courses outside the US. The cape hole 14th at Jasper Park may be one of the more photogenic holes in our country, a dogleg left hole with water running the entire length on the left side. I'm planning on playing here in 2011, as business will be taking me to the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge in August that year. 

#7 - Cruden Bay GC Cruden Bay, Scotland Par 4 380 Yards Architect: Old Tom Morris (1899)

The 7th hole at Cruden Bay, rated 37th by Golf Digest in their 'Rest of World' list, has been called "one of the world's first great doglegs" by Ran Morrissett. A true 'gamble' type hole off the tee where you can try to cut off the dogleg to set up a shorter iron into the green, which is elevated and sits in between two huge dunes. A gorgeous two-shotter! 

#11 - Ballyneal Golf and Hunt Club Holyoke, CO, USA Par 3 200 Yards Architect: Tom Doak (2006)

I knew I wanted one of Sand Hills GC or Ballyneal represented on my list and the 11th at Ballyneal just happened to fit into the way I was routing my course. Interestingly enough, Ballyneal is not rated among the top 100 courses in the US by Golf Digest, a crazy oversight. I've read that they dismissed the course due to the fact they use fescue grass on the greens, something that Ron Whitten, their architecture editor calls "an acquired taste". Lunacy! Anyway, the 11th is an uphill par three played to a plateau green with a severe falloff on the left side and some great undulations on the green. I'll be seeing this course for the first time in June and I hope to get plenty of chances to tackle this hole! Literally can't wait! 

#17 - Royal Dornoch GC (Championship Course) Dornoch, Scotland Par 4 405 Yards Architect: Old Tom Morris (1877)

I'm a huge fan of Lorne Rubenstein and his book "Season in Dornoch", his tale of spending a summer at Royal Dornoch, the 6th rated course outside the US by Golf Digest, is one of my favourites. I actually had trouble coming up with a suitable 17th hole for my dream course and then I remembered the 17th here. There is a diagonal slope across the fairway that forces the player into a decision off the tee, whether to lay well back or take your chances with driver. Then, the player has an uphill second to a plateau green surrounded by bunkers. One of Tom Watson's favourite holes from what I've read and this was the other hole that Tom Doak thought was an inspired choice in the draft. I hope to visit Dornoch at some point in my life. Sounds like a great town to visit. Only three more holes left to choose, as I had to wait awhile for the last round. I only had one par five to this point and I knew I'd want three par fives at least to make a par 71 course. I debated using one of my picks on the 3rd hole at Durban GC in South Africa, a famous par five. However, I really don't consider it a 'Dream Hole' of mine - I have no real desire to visit that course. Thankfully, I was able to come up with a couple good choices at the end of the draft to fill out my course. 

#2 - Friar's Head GC Baiting Hollow, NY, USA Par 5 580 Yards Architect: Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw (2003)

This stunning course on Long Island in New York isn't rated in the Top 100 in the US by Golf Digest but again, from all I've read about the course, it's a huge oversight. The long par five second plays out of the dunes from an elevated tee and winds back and forth with bunkers and blowouts all over the place. Just a stunning hole as you can see in the photo above. A very private club and quite difficult to gain access from what I understand. 

#3 - Sagebrush Golf and Sporting Club Quilchena, BC, Canada Par 4 416 Yards Architect: Rod Whitman, Richard Zokol and Armen Suny (2008)

This is the third of the holes selected that I've actually played. Sagebrush is a new design and perhaps the funnest course in Canada to play, as the course plays firm and fast and the design really embraces the ground game. The third hole, a midlength par four, is a perfect example, as the prevailing wind is behind the player and makes the hole function as a short, almost driveable par four. It's a dramatic looking hole, plays as well as it looks and is one of my favourites on the course. 

#12 - Monterey Peninsula CC (Shore Course) Pebble Beach, CA, USA Par 5 588 Yards Architect: Mike Strantz (2004)

A relatively unknown course in the same vicinity as Pebble Beach and Cypress Point that went through a complete overhaul by Mike Strantz in 2004, taking it to the next level architecturally. This private club is now ranked 72nd in the US by Golf Digest and the 12th occupies stunning land just off the ocean, weaving back and forth with blowout bunkers and playing into the prevailing wind. Looks like a treat to play and hopefully I'll get the chance to see it when I eventually make my way to the Monterey Peninsula. 

 So there you have it! My dream 18! Let's check out the scorecard:

#1 St. Andrews (Old) 376 Yards Par 4
#2 Friar's Head 580 Yards Par 5
#3 Sagebrush 416 Yards Par 4
#4 Banff Springs 200 Yards Par 3
#5 Royal Portrush 411 Yards Par 4
#6 Riviera CC 175 Yards Par 3
#7 Cruden Bay 380 Yards Par 4
#8 Royal County Down 430 Yards Par 4
#9 Turnberry (Ailsa) 449 Yards Par 4
#10 Augusta National 495 Yards Par 4
#11 Ballyneal 200 Yards Par 3
#12 MPCC (Shore Course) 588 Yards Par 5
#13 Pacific Dunes 444 Yards Par 4
#14 Jasper Park 361 Yards Par 4
#15 Cape Breton Highlands Links 540 Yards Par 5
#16 Cypress Point 231 Yards Par 3
#17 Royal Dornoch 405 Yards Par 4
#18 Oakmont CC 484 Yards Par 4

FRONT NINE: 3417 Yards Par 35
BACK NINE: 3748 Yards Par 36
OVERALL: 7165 Yards Par 71

Looks like a hell of a fun golf course to play! Hopefully, one day I can say I played or walked every single one of these holes. Many thanks to Jim for organizing the mock draft over at GCA. My next post will be a natural extension of this one - my personal "Dream List" or Bucket List of courses I hope to get the chance to play at some point in my life.