With the Top 100 Courses listed this month it begs the question: what do tour pros think makes a great course… or hole, for that matter? Now it’s hard to speak on behalf of my fellow players, but I loved a comment from the locker room years ago when a guy was asked what made for a great course. “Anywhere I play well at!” was his response.
Fair enough, I thought.
For me, a course that uses most clubs in the bag usually tickles my fancy. I’ve never been a fan of long tracks, rather ones that test you strategically and make you think, What happens if I hit it there?
I rarely remember 450-metre par 4s, 230-metre par 3s or 600-metre par 5s. However, the shorter, quirkier versions of each tend to stay in the memory bank if they present an interesting challenge.
“A great course can almost tell a story as you walk it.”
A combination of challenging, thought-provoking holes along with a couple of breathers in between leaves the golfer wanting more. And, more importantly, wanting to return.
Great greens and bunkering are obvious prerequisites for the top courses. Standing on the tee thinking, Where’s the hole located today? means you have to think first rather than just blaze away. Case in point: most Sandbelt venues in Melbourne. A good vista never goes astray, either. Pebble Beach in California has to be one of the most spectacular courses you’ll ever see, but I think New South Wales Golf Club is a much finer test and layout. The views there just happen to enhance the entire experience. The ability for any level of golfer to play a course is a good indication of its stature, too. Can a high handicapper have an equally enjoyable experience as a tour pro?
Among the players themselves I’m always interested to hear their points of view on certain courses. Geoff Ogilvy is never one to shy away from an opinion and he’s well worth listening to when extolling his on parcels of turf. It’s no surprise he’s teamed up with Clayton, Cocking and Mead to renovate many of the top courses across the country. Phil Mickelson always has some interesting ideas about how holes should be played, too. I remember watching him break down every possible scenario at British Open venues in the UK. It was great to see him finally be rewarded with a Claret Jug at Muirfield a few years ago.
Probably my favourite comment from a golfer about one of the simplest yet most frightening holes is from our own golf legend Peter Thomson. He describes the opening hole at St Andrews as the best design there is. The fairway’s as wide as the MCG, there are no bunkers and the hole only measures about 340 metres. It has an enormous green but a burn that sits at the front edge is the hole’s defence. That and the wind that frequents the ‘Auld Grey Toon’ most days cause golfers tremendous headaches on the hole. It’s so simple but extremely clever. That sums up the Old Course perfectly, which is why it’s up there in the worldwide rankings every year.
Hopefully, you get to play some in our Top 100 and if you play them well you’ll probably think they’re a great course, too.