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2010 Year in Review – Part Two – The Courses



Nefyn - while not a great golf course - it is a great site 



Best New Course of the Year – Castle Stuart


I have not seen any of the courses of the Baja Peninsula, but I have seen some of the other contenders. In 2007 I picked out two courses to watch and they were Castle Stuart and Old Macdonald. In the end they remain the two leading candidates for the best course opened in 2010. I found time to see both and have no qualms in choosing Castle Stuart as the best new course of the year. I found the detailing brilliant and the bunker work to be some of the most innovative that I have seen. Gil Hanse at Castle Stuart has gone one step beyond what Kyle Phillips did at Kingsbarns.



par three 11th at Castle Stuart - all created from scratch!



Architect of the Year – Gil Hanse


Not only did he build what was probably the best new course of the year, he continued to make a case for being the top restoration and renovation architect in the business. The work completed at LA CC is staggeringly good. His work has spread to the Far East to include Tokyo Golf Club and now includes places like Winged Foot. Nobody in golf can match the depth, quality and diversity of his clientele. The only worry for Gil is whether he can maintain his hands on approach as he becomes more and more popular.




The Trips in 2010


While I can’t match the quality and depth of last year, I had another staggeringly good year for seeing some of the most interesting courses on the planet.


I played seven rounds in Florida split between two trips. The Highlights included Donald Ross’s San Jose Country Club wonderfully renovated by Dan Schlegel and Indian Creek a brilliant William Flynn where the greens are all raised and completely surrounded by short grass. This confirmed the approach to Laval



The facinating short four 13th at Indian Creek



The spring brought an extensive trip through Wales including the god-awful 2010 course where they played the Ryder Cup. It also introduced me to gems such as Pennard, Aberdovey, St. David’s and Southerdown which are all well worth seeking out. The highlight of the trip was Royal Porthcawl which had a staggeringly great set of par threes and some outstanding fours particularly on the back nine. The finish of the trip was a round at Royal Birkdale an impressive course running always between the dunes. Finally the surprise was Fowler’s hidden gem called Delemere Forest a stunner of a heathland layout that left me awestruck often throughout the round. It made it clear that England is the enormous hole in my experiences with architecture.


June and July were Canadian trips that brought me to the quirky and entertaining Victoria followed by the restrained and brilliant Royal Colwood They were the last two on my list of must sees and this gives me a tremendous overview of Canadian Golf. July brought another round at Banff Springs while on holiday with my wife. As good as the course is, it could be a lot better. Come to think of it so could Jasper Park. I wish Fairmont would invest some money in the two courses.



Prairie Dunes 4th



August took me to Prairie Dunes in Kansas for multiple rounds. Prairie Dunes is the best course I played and likely one of the best ten courses in the world. The sense of place rivals Royal County Down. The same trip took me to play the clever and understated Shoreacres and Steve Smyers renovation of Olympia Fields South which I enjoyed.


October featured a trip to Denver where I played Colorado Golf Club, Common Ground and Ballyneal. Colorado Golf Club was brilliant the way the course embraced the land and how they incorporated it into the site and maintained so much of the native landscape. Common Ground is a thesis on excellent public golf. Ballyneal was simply one of the great golfing experiences playing through towering sand hills. It has the best set of fives after Highlands Links and is a must play.




The impressive Ballyneal



The final trip was actually the best and most impressive. In four days I played Knollwood where I work, Quaker Ridge, Yale, Fishers Island, Fenway and Winged Foot. Fishers Island may be one of the most ideal experiences you can have in golf. The golf course from the 3rd tee to the 12th hole has no rival in golf, it’s that good. The golf is all exquisite and the setting along the ocean is breathtaking. Winged Foot is more impressive for how strong the golf is. You simply have to hit great shots into those greens, but at the same time the course has width and room and you are pretty hard pressed to lose a ball. It also happened to be my low round of the year and likely the best round I’ve played in quite some time. I had a serious shot at breaking 80.




My favourite hole in Westchester Country - 4th at Quaker Ridge



Biggest Surprise of all the Courses


Yale was the one that surprised me the most. I’m awestruck at the audacity they had to build that course. It may be the biggest swing for the fences in history of architecture and it thrilled me all round long. The scale of the course is enormous, the risk they were taking were incredible, even the site was likely too severe for a golf course – and yet the golfing ground is some of the finest the game has to offer. Magic!





Yale's 8th - miss left and its 20 feet down into a bunker, miss right and its 30 feet below the green with the green sloping away - no other course has this impressive a scale



Next Year?


I will be in Hawaii this winter and have made arrangements to see David McLay Kidd’s Nanea. I think it’s likely that I’ll make another spring trip, this time to South-west Ireland, centered on Ballybunnion, Lahinch and Waterville. I will be travelling to Denver this spring for my annual ASGCA meeting, but there is no great golf on the agenda. My next American adventure will be to Boston. I plan to play Myopia Hunt, The Country Club, Eastward Ho, Old Sandwich, Boston Golf Club and return to Essex County. That trip will depend on Laval.



I know I’m very lucky to have the ability to make the trips that I do. I’m blessed with a staggering number of opportunities to see many of the world’s greatest courses often because friends offer to make the arrangements because they think I will benefit from the experience. I’m grateful they feel that way.



December 9th, 2010