Monday, December 12, 2011

Best & Worst of the Courses played in 2011

In the past two days I have played what I fear might be my final two rounds in 2011. Both were incredible rounds on the New Course, and I wouldn't want to end the 2011 golfing year in any other way. A lunch in the R&A Clubhouse after one of the rounds wasn't too shabby! In this post I have rated various aspects of the courses I have played during 2011. It was a good year, and I managed to played eleven of the top 100 in the world. I have attempted to rate both typical categories in addition to some atypical areas of rating. If there is another category of particular interest not mentioned, please comment with the question!

Best Shower: Prestwick
     -The showering experience in the Member's locker room at Prestwick is second to none. This may be difficult to gain access to the Member's locker room, but if you can, the best shower of your life awaits.

Best Meal: Muirfield
     -Calling the lunch meal at Muirfield a "feast" would be an understatement. The amount of food and quality is unmatched at any other course I have been to (including Prestwick's fabled lunch). Visiting Muirfield without having the lunch would be on the same level as going to Paris and not visiting the Eiffel Tower...

Most Enjoyable Course: North Berwick 
     -The layout of North Berwick is extremely enjoyable. It is not an overly challenging course. The 15th "Redan" hole is the most replicated hole in all of golf. The quirkiness of ancient stone walls snaking throughout the course leaves the golfer wanting more at the end of the round.

Overall Experience: Pine Valley
      -Merely being on the Pine Valley grounds creates a surreal feeling. Playing well during the round further instils an incredible feeling. You realize another visit to the course will most likely never come, and you try to soak in every single second in hopes that it will last forever.

Best Clubhouse: Kiawah Island (Cassique)
     -The Cassique Clubhouse on Kiawah Island has facilities that cannot be found on other courses. The food is amazing, the locker room massive and accommodating, and the setting beautiful. It is a private course, hidden behind a guarded gate, but if ever given the chance to visit, do not pass it up.

Most Challenging (Conditions Considered): Muirfield
     -Muirfield is a challenging course. Factor in 40 MPH prevailing winds and gusts over 60 MPH, it was nearly impossible. I hit driver - driver - bump & run into a 360 yard par 4. I have never been happier shooting 93 as a 3 handicap....

Best Caddy: Carnoustie 
     -When I played Carnoustie, the caddiemaster of 37 years caddied for me. His knowledge of Carnoustie surpassed any golfing knowledge that I have ever encountered. The rest of the caddying staff is rumored to be impressive and extremely knowledgeable.

Rudest Pro Shop Staff: Machrihanish 
     -The staff member running the pro-shop at Machrihanish made Matt and me leave our golf bags and overnight bags in a torrential downpour outside while rudely checking us into the course. The pro-shop was empty and in everything she did, she acted as if we had just asked her a huge favor. She was also wearing a Loch Lomond sweater... No pride in your own course? It left a bad flavor in our mouths.

Worst Greenskeepers: Gleneagles
     -I don't doubt that Gleneagles can be in excellent shape, but on each of my visits, the courses were very rough. If there is a rough winter before the 2014 Ryder Cup, it will be very interesting to see how the course holds up.

Best Greenskeepers: St Andrews Links 
     -The St Andrews Links Greens Staff do an incredible job of keeping all seven courses in championship condition year-round. They should be an inspiration to other courses in Scotland. I have yet to see another Scottish course which is in equally good condition mid-winter.

Most Underrated Course: St Andrews New Course
     -The New Course at St Andrews would be ranked highly and considered one of Old Tom Morris's jewels if it didn't live under the shadow of its older brother, the Old Course.

Most Picturesque: Kingsbarns
     -Kingsbarns is very picturesque. Kyle Phillips did an incredible job of turning farmland and cow pastures into one of the best new Scottish courses. Until I play the likes of Pebble Beach and Cypress Point, Kingsbarns will remain the most picturesque course I have played.

Overrated Setting: Kiawah Island Ocean Course
     -When I arrived at the Ocean Course, I expected to see some of the most impressive seaside holes in the world of golf. I was disappointed at the scenery. This doesn't speak to the strength of the design, merely the impressiveness of the setting.

Favorite New Course: Castle Stuart
     -Castle Stuart should be played on any UK golf trip. It is an incredibly strong and impressive design which sits firmly in my top five favorite courses.

Best Bacon Roll: Turnberry
      -This is perhaps the most important rating category (other than the showers) mentioned in this post. A good pre-round bacon roll is paramount to a good round. If you don't serve a good bacon roll, what's the point of even having a kitchen? I had to have two pre-round bacon rolls at Turnberry... very telling of my experience.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

A Picture Says 1000 Words (2011 Summary)

As the golf season has slowed down to a crawl here in St Andrews, I decided a year-end golf summary was in order. I have assembled a small album of assorted pictures from some of the rounds that I have played in the last year. Enjoy! (Clicking on the photos will enlarge them)

Champion Hills

Old Course

Castle Course (Other St Andrews Courses)

10th green at Turnberry

17th hole, "Alps" at Prestwick Golf Club

Matt in an unbelievably small and deep bunker at Dundonald Links

Gleneagles (Centenary)

North Berwick

Cruden Bay

Worked as a green side marshal on the 18th at the 2011 Open Championship!

Cold, wet, but what an awesome experience!

Visit to the "Oa" on Islay after Machrihanish

Machrihanish Dunes' small golf shop, rural?

Machrihanish GC (#93 in the World)
 Can't wait for the upcoming golf in 2012! With an England and Ireland trips in the works, it should prove to be a great year. More posts to come in December!