By Bradley S. Klein of Golfweek
In a year when I’ve been on the road (as usual) 150 days and seen maybe 100+ golf courses, some for the first time, a few moments stand out. Here’s my list, in chronological order rather than in some ordinal (ranking) sequence:
1. Bluejack National Golf Club, Montgomery, Texas. Tiger Woods’ first U.S. design effort is surprisingly understated, with wide-open ground game options and a lot of restraint. I even went back later in the year just before completion to double-check and had my initial sense confirmed.
2. Quivira Golf Club, Los Cabos, Mexico, 5th tee. Surely the dopiest hole I played all year, a 310-yard, downhill, fish-hook left par-4 overhanging the Pacific Ocean, but the thrilling, three-quarter mile long cart path ride over a 255-foot ascent from the fourth green to the half-way house behind the back tee made the journey worthwhile.
3. ASGCA meeting, San Diego. Got to give a nice talk/roast to the assembled members of the American Society of Golf Course Architects upon receiving its Donald Ross Award for lifetime achievement. No apologies for gloating; it meant the world to me.
4. Augusta National 10th hole. Every Monday of Masters week, I get to take a group of Golfweek’s Best raters on a three-hour walking tour of the back nine. I never lose the thrill of walking down that 10th fairway and talking about that stunning, magisterial par 4.
5. Dooks Golf Links, Kerry, Ireland. Lots of fine old courses, but this quiet gem at the mouth of Dingle Bay, established in 1889, is a reminder of the beauty of quaint, low-key links golf. And I love the frog logo.
6. Chambers Bay, University Place, Wash. What a wild concatenation of images and emotions from the 2015 U.S. Open – many of them controversial. Bumpy greens, exaggerated by HD TV, plus a faux links on a stunning setting overlooking lower Puget Sound that was shockingly unsuitable to handle championship crowds.
7. Bellerive Country Club, St. Louis. So much better in person than on TV; and that rarity in golf, a championship club that is first and foremost maintained for everyday member play.
8. Cabot Cliffs, Inverness, Nova Scotia, 2nd hole. I never have any expectations; that way I can’t be disappointed. I waited all the way until the 2nd tee before I had my socks knocked off – a 401-yard, double carry, multiple options, split fairway uphill par 4 with a partially blind approach shot that is one of the most visually striking holes I have seen anywhere in the world. All the attention will focus on the waterfront holes, but this one is the gem that tells you the place is special.
9. Dick Youngscap. The curmudgeonly owner/developer of Sand Hills Golf Club in Mullen, Neb., stole the show at a Golfweek architecture summit in Scottsdale, Ariz., honoring Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, when he talked modestly and about what he intended with his club and how surprised he was by its widespread impact on design.
10. Puerto Plata/Playa Grande, Dominican Republic. It wasn’t just the sharp aesthetics of Rees Jones’ redo of his dad’s course on the country’s northeast coast that was so impressive. It was also the jarring images of the 50-mile ride from the airport to the resort property along the cluttered two-lane “highway” and all of those school kids riding helmet-less on motorcycles as they clung to daddy’s (or mommy’s) shirt. It was another powerful reminder of contrasting worlds and the far-flung places golf takes us.
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