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GSwag

How do you rate a golf course?

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Specifically, what's the most important factor in rating a golf course high or low?  Conditions?  Scenery?  Layout? Greens?  Challenge?

In my way of looking at golf courses I look at the layout, and how interesting it is.  Having a scenic backdrop sure as heck doesn't hurt a golf course in my book.  Elevation changes seem to make a course more interesting to me, which is why I guess playing golf in the mountains, versus at home in Florida always gets me more excited when playing golf.

Beyond the layout/elevation/scenery I would definitely say that good greens are a must for any golf course I would rate highly.  You can have great tees and fairways, but if your greens aren't rolling true or good, then why waste my time, right?  And I would even say the opposite is true.  I played a course last night where the tee boxes were pretty worn out, and the fairways were ok, but not great, but their greens were fantastic bent grass, that rolled really true.  Well, I can overcome the poorer conditions on the front end if I know that I'll have a great surface to putt on.

And I guess with any golf course, if it's too easy, then I get bored and lose interest.  I need a track that works me out not only physically, but mentally.  My home course, for example, I am thinking on almost every shot, because I really have to focus to score well.  And if I miss a shot out there I will pay the price.  So any good course will really keep my mind engaged from start to finish.  I played a course last night for the first time, where I had to pull out a GPS map, because on half of the shots I had no idea where I was supposed to hit it.  But the end result was great, because I was definitely engaged for 18 holes.

So what do you like in a golf course, more than anything else, that keeps you coming back?

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Layout, amount of trees, conditions, and the general atmosphere of the place.

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I've played in many parts of the country, and I generally like most courses as long as the conditions are good; they don't have to be great, but they should be good based on what I pay.  I generally research courses as best I can before I pick them.  Most any course is challenging the way I play, so not being overly difficult is a plus for me. I played a course in Florida once that had fairway bunkers that I could only hit a sand wedge out because the lips were so high.  That's stupid, not challenging.  I enjoy courses that have nice scenery and no or minimal housing.  If houses or condos are set back far enough or they get lost in the trees, that's OK.  I've been spoiled by playing on courses here at home that are not in housing developments.

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Hmmm? I guess I rate courses after playing them more than once. Usually. I've played a ton of courses around the country - private - resort- and muni. There are exceptions however. Wherever I play these days I'm not looking for a beat-down. Challenging yes. Tricky no. I tend to play better on parkland style courses as opposed to wide open desert or perhaps links style. I do enjoy scenery as where I live there is little natural beauty. It's mostly flat. Greens and fairways are most important and when I find those two to be in great shape the tee boxes are as well. However, I can live without beautiful tee boxes because most if not all the time I'm hitting off a tee and a prefect lie. I also like to see a course that's cut and groomed properly for good play ability. As many of you  probably say; to play a course well it has to "suit your eye." Some do and others don't regardless of course conditions, etc. Scoring. Of course when I score well I rate them higher as many of my personal rating factors probably aligned. One man's 5 star is another man's 3 star. It all depends doesn't it?

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Nice thread - I used to think about this more frequently than I do now because I rarely play a new course and when I do it’s one that has a good reputation going in.

Good conditions especially greens, pace of play, a variety of tee options and nothing too tricked up. That sounds about right


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I think I'm like the others in most ways.  Conditioning is a significant factor.  Greens don't have to be really fast, but must roll true, fairways should be mowed appropriately, bunkers raked, the grass healthy (I know that depends largely on weather).  I'm playing for fun, so I want a decent challenge, but I don't care to get beat up.  I enjoy good designs, with a variety of hole lengths and shapes.  I enjoy thinking my way around, so I like at least a few holes that give me choices, with varying risks involved.  Scenery is nice, but not critical.  Last, and probably just as important, is the staff, they should be professional but welcoming.  On one hand, golfers like me are paying their salaries.  On the other, when they do a good job, it makes my day a whole lot better, they deserve my respect and consideration.

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15 minutes ago, DaveP043 said:

I think I'm like the others in most ways.  Conditioning is a significant factor.  Greens don't have to be really fast, but must roll true, fairways should be mowed appropriately, bunkers raked, the grass healthy (I know that depends largely on weather).  I'm playing for fun, so I want a decent challenge, but I don't care to get beat up.  I enjoy good designs, with a variety of hole lengths and shapes.  I enjoy thinking my way around, so I like at least a few holes that give me choices, with varying risks involved.  Scenery is nice, but not critical.  Last, and probably just as important, is the staff, they should be professional but welcoming.  On one hand, golfers like me are paying their salaries.  On the other, when they do a good job, it makes my day a whole lot better, they deserve my respect and consideration.

+1 on all your comments I would also add, Carts in clean and good condition along with the course well marked. On the latter i play a course where the first few times it was a guessing game how to get to the next hole. 

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Layout, good conditions..... fairways and greens. Must be fair... I hate what I call "gimick" courses..... total blind tee shots, severe dog legs, greens with trouble on three sides and multiple breaks,etc...

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44 minutes ago, DaveP043 said:

Last, and probably just as important, is the staff, they should be professional but welcoming.  On one hand, golfers like me are paying their salaries.

That's a very good point. Although it's not what I usually take away/remember so much when playing a course it's always nice to encounter a professional, helpful, and courteous staff. I play now and then at our local muni which is fun with the guys I know that play there regularly. However, the staff isn't professional and are a avatar of typical city government workers. Entitled and a bunch of do nothings; hangers-on that can't be fired. And like Dave said... I'm having to contribute to their salaries! 😡

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53 minutes ago, silver & black said:

Layout, good conditions..... fairways and greens. Must be fair... I hate what I call "gimick" courses..... total blind tee shots, severe dog legs, greens with trouble on three sides and multiple breaks,etc...

In many cases I enjoy these courses, as long as I can get a decent yardage book.  Mike Strantz has designed a bunch of courses that some feel are gimicky, lots of visual illusions and intimidations, a number of blind shots, but once you figure out where to hit it they're lots of fun.  Similarly, some of my favorite courses in Ireland and Scotland have numerous blind shots.  I guess I enjoy the challenge of deciphering the challenges and (occasionally) hitting the shot that the hols demands.

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18 minutes ago, DaveP043 said:

Mike Strantz has designed a bunch of courses that some feel are gimicky, lots of visual illusions and intimidations, a number of blind shots, but once you figure out where to hit it they're lots of fun.  

I played Tot Hill Farm once.  

PB Dye - played it once as well.

There's a fine line between "fun" and tricked up/gimmicky.  Granted, I played both of these courses before the advent of smart phones with GPS golf course apps with maps, etc, but I don't think it would have mattered at either of these places.  The most frustrating thing I've ever encountered on a golf course is picking a line to play a shot, and absolutely nutting it, only to walk up to where my ball was headed to find out I was in a hidden lake, or bunker, or some other nonsense that even with a course map or yardage book you would have had no clue that that was there.

Pete Dye is the perfect example of a golf course architect that some call a genius, while others mutter four letter expletives under their breath any time his name is mentioned.  To each his own I say.

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Like everyone else, condition matters a lot. A few years ago I played the Riviera Maya Golf Club near Akumal, Mexico. I still rate it as one of the most enjoyable rounds I've ever played. Part was due to the immaculate conditions, but the other was something I never really considered related to the layout. Perhaps I picked the perfect tees for me, but there was a lot of trouble I avoided given my combination of length and the tees I picked - a lot of the trouble was either out of my range or I was able to carry it which meant that, for the most part, even when I was in trouble, it wasn't terribly penal, which made for a lot of fun. Don't get me wrong, I still penalized myself a number of times, but overall I wasn't punished too terribly bad for the slight misses. I assume designers/architects try to take these kinds of things into consideration.

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18 minutes ago, GSwag said:

I played Tot Hill Farm once.  

PB Dye - played it once as well.

There's a fine line between "fun" and tricked up/gimmicky.  Granted, I played both of these courses before the advent of smart phones with GPS golf course apps with maps, etc, but I don't think it would have mattered at either of these places.  The most frustrating thing I've ever encountered on a golf course is picking a line to play a shot, and absolutely nutting it, only to walk up to where my ball was headed to find out I was in a hidden lake, or bunker, or some other nonsense that even with a course map or yardage book you would have had no clue that that was there.

Pete Dye is the perfect example of a golf course architect that some call a genius, while others mutter four letter expletives under their breath any time his name is mentioned.  To each his own I say.

I've only played Tot Hill Farm once, and I wasn't crazy about it.  I really enjoy Tobacco Road, and liked Stonehouse and Royal New Kent when I played them.  Its been forever, but I played Caledonia and True Blue way back when.  For all of them I bought the golf course yardage book, and that helped a whole lot.

I've played a few Pete Dye courses, all in the last dew years, and I generally enjoy them.  Most of the time it seems that there's reasonable room off the tee, and things just get tighter and tougher as you get closer to the green.  If you're having even a little trouble, they can get pretty punitive.  PB Dye, his son, doesn't seem to be as penal.  I've played the course in MD just once, and a few others in Myrtle Beach a few decades back.  The one in MD did seem to have a number of blind tee shots where they could easily have been avoided.  I don't mind when it fits the terrain, especially in really old courses where little or no earth was moved, but to make a blind shot with no obvious reason isn't my favorite design.

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Greens first, layout, varying holes, overall condition, flat(ish) tee boxes, challenging, numerous tee boxes, pace of play, practice area.

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... Layout and scenery are paramount for me. Don't care for houses on a course unless they are far enough away from greens and fairways. The more nature the better. This is one of the reasons I love Champions Gate in Orlando as it has an amazing amount of exotic birds as well as alligators. Condition is also a must. It does not have to be pristine, just in reasonably good shape. Aguila and Papago in Phoenix are great examples of picturesque courses that get a ton of traffic but are in decent shape for the price.  Walking is a huge bonus. I am not going to skip a course like Quintero because I have to take a cart, but I will always choose a walkable course for most of my rounds. 

... Like others I am not a fan of blind shots and certainly not multiple blind shots. But my biggest gripe is tricked up greens that don't match the natural terrain and have fabricated humps, mounds and tiers. Especially when the lay out is so nice but ruined by silly greens. Hitting a good drive and a great iron shot to 8 feet and looking at a possible bogie because of a mound or tier just isn't they way I want to play golf. I don't mid a tier if they keep the pins a good distance from the top or bottom but my experience has been if they have tiers they like to put the pin right at the top/bottom edge or even on the slope. Mystic Dunes/World Woods in Florida are perfect examples. Here is a review I wrote on Golf Advisor about Mystic Dunes:

 Beautiful course ruined by greens

I do not normally write negative reviews. But in this case I wish someone would have and saved me a wasted round of golf. The greens are virtually unplayable if you are looking to post a score. It was a wind advisory day but they still put pins on slopes. Of course there are so few flat spots I guess the didn't have much choice. Putting defensively on every single putt gets old quickly. What is really dissaponting is the lay out is very picturesque, especially the back 9.

... Interestingly the couple I played with at Mystic Dunes
 were high index players and they loved the greens. They said they struggle and 3 or 4 putt on all greens so they had an excuse for poor putting and they loved watching a better player struggle like them on tricky greens LOL.

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Depends on what I'm paying to some extent. I will go on a cheap public course if I am just out practicing, and I don't expect to get a $$$ course for $ greens fees.

I rate condition and layout first. Scenery is nice, but not a big factor to me. What I don't like is

  • unfair holes, e.g. pin placements no one could hit in regulation, e.g. long approach to a pin tucked behind a trap - I just shake my head when I see it, and wonder what the greenskeeper or super was thinking when they cut that hole. Maybe it's just me but if I hit a great drive, I should have a shot at GIR without a miracle shot. One unfair hole out of 18 OK, but several is WTH?
  • courses where the challenge is too uneven, some easy holes mixed with some nearly impossible holes. I appreciate some mix, but not from one extreme to another. I have played a few courses like that. And I don't have a problem with courses where all the holes a relatively hard, you should know what you're getting into before you choose to play them, especially these days with all the info online.
  • courses where you can't hit a driver very often - a course I played regularly had a dogleg par 4 with a creek across the bend, that I couldn't tee off with more than a 5 iron. More than that and I was in the creek, but you couldn't carry the creek because the hole went 90 deg right after the creek, with trees on both sides. You could carry a longer club to the fairway across the creek, but you'd be in the trees at least 95% of the time - if you can't visualize, imagine trying to hit a both sides tree/deep rough lined fairway from 90 degrees! That's just an uncalled for hole design to me. There were 4-holes where you had to layup off the tee, I don't care for that.
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52 minutes ago, Middler said:
  • courses where you can't hit a driver very often - a course I played regularly had a dogleg par 4 with a creek across the bend, that I couldn't tee off with more than a 5 iron. 

Yeah, that reminds me of St James Bay, in Carrabelle, Florida.  It's somewhat of a resort course, right near the beach, and about an hour from Tallahassee, so I've played it a bit.  I think I pull driver on one hole outside of the par 5s.  Every hole has wetlands across the fairway at about 230 yards or so from the tees, so you are forced to pull something less than driver on almost every hole.  It's target golf at it's finest.  Most of the guys I know have a love/hate relationship with that course.  I know very few people who have a positive response when you mention you are considering playing there and would they like to join you.  And man, brutally penal too.  I took a friend of mine there who is about a 15 handicap, and can be somewhat wild with shots.  St. James Bay literally has no rough.  If you miss it right or left it's gone into a nature area, and you are just dropping and hitting again.  I don't believe my friend broke 100, and lost at least a dozen golf balls, maybe more.  The conditions there are usually pretty good, but you really have to pick your targets carefully, and if you miss, just know it's gone.  So yeah, that fits the narrative you are describing above to a tee.

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You can judge a Golf Course’s commitment to excellence by the quality of the parking lot. If an organization doesn’t do the little things well they probably don’t pay attention to the big ones. If the parking lot is clean and well organized....... if the attendants greet you with a smile and a willingness to help........... if directions to the bag drop and club house are well placed....... then more often than not the Golf Course itself will not disappoint.

 

Then of course there are those hidden gems located off the beaten path. Usually these fall in the Muni category and the overall golf experience rivals that of the most exclusive private clubs. I’ve played this course twice. The experience was like no other!

 

 

 https://youtu.be/IbRFfXOeB0w

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sent from my iPad using MyGolfSpy

 

 

 

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2 hours ago, SteddyGolf said:

You can judge a Golf Course’s commitment to excellence by the quality of the parking lot. If an organization doesn’t do the little things well they probably don’t pay attention to the big ones. If the parking lot is clean and well organized....... if the attendants greet you with a smile and a willingness to help........... if directions to the bag drop and club house are well placed....... then more often than not the Golf Course itself will not disappoint.

 

Then of course there are those hidden gems located off the beaten path. Usually these fall in the Muni category and the overall golf experience rivals that of the most exclusive private clubs. I’ve played this course twice. The experience was like no other!

 

 

https://youtu.be/IbRFfXOeB0w

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sent from my iPad using MyGolfSpy

 

 

 

I never really thought about golf course parking lots.  None of the golf courses in my area have bag drops, private or public... well, unless you count me dropping off my wife to pick up a cart and bring it out to the car after I park.  🤣  If I'm alone, I park, carry my bag to the clubhouse, get a cart or put it on my pushcart and walk.  There are no attendants, only the person who checks you in.  

Of course, when we travel and play a nice course, the bag drops are almost always right by the clubhouse front door, and it is very nice that our bags are put on a cart and transported to the back of the clubhouse where we exit to head to the practice area after checking in.  However, courses like this are not always highly rated in my book.  They can be,  but not always.

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For me, conditions/greens are paramount. I kind of combine those into one category since they are so closely related. Yes, scenery is important, but good scenery on a poorly maintained course leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

The main other characteristic that goes into judging a course for me, is pace of play. If any given day on a particular course is a 5 hour round, the chances of me returning are slim. Occasionally, I’ll go on a day that isn’t busy, but that is only if the course is phenomenal. 

 

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