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.


7 comments:

  1. Actually kind of a cool post.

    I'd like to make a joke about you and 24 other men waiting around for weeks to make fantasy golf hole picks, but if it wasn't for your weird massive obsession with golf courses I wouldn't have a chance to play cool courses. So i'll reserve my joks for private emails with Cal.

    ReplyDelete
  2. You took a bunh of my holes, but I won't hold it against you. All in all, a fun time and your picks look pretty nice.

    ReplyDelete
  3. ;) Thanks for letting me off the hook Tim. Agreed - it was a lot of fun...

    ReplyDelete
  4. Matt,

    based on his comments, I don't think Harris is going to be a good fit for BN in June. Sorry. :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Awesome! You're OUT Harry!! :P

    ReplyDelete
  6. Come on Jim, give me a second chance. I've been studing the golf atlas web site for weeks now. I even have my wife quiz me on golf architecture on a nightly basis. It's had a very negative impact on my sex life, but it's worth it in the end.

    Besides that, I said the post was cool. I even read this one.

    ReplyDelete