Thoughtful readers of this blog sometimes submit their own, personal golf course rankings, which — while not scientific — provide some perspective on my more authoritative list. Here’s a recent submission from Minnesota’s Dr. Mark Mammel:
John: Just perusing your top 50 list after reading your commentary on the recent Askernish Open. Lists are always fun, and, of course, debatable. Just for bona fides, I’ve played 21 of the 50; I’ve been a member at Royal Dornoch for 20 years; I grew up in Hutchinson, KS, and took my first golf lessons from Ross Wilson, long-time pro at my first “home” course, Prairie Dunes; and I love- LOVE- Askernish. So I hope you’ll just give my comments a thought before clicking “delete”.
First, Castle Stuart above Royal Dornoch? Seriously, that’s just not on. I played at CS the year it opened and a couple of times since. Lovely clubhouse, nice folks, overpriced, so-so turf, and if a part of the rating is the story the walk tells — well, heading out from the first tee at Dornoch is Dickens. Castle Stuart is Barbara Taylor Bradford. Please rethink this one!
As a Minnesota boy, I’ve payed New Richmond a number of times. While perfectly OK, it’s not great, and I don’t see how it made the cut. Interlachen rests on its laurels — or should I say lily pads? When the Donald Ross Society paid a visit to the area, they played at Minikahda, Woodhill, White Bear Yacht Club and Northland. I was the local tour guide, and when I suggested adding Interlachen, the Society’s leaders felt it to be a poor representation of Ross that, due to trees and change, deserved a pass.
Which leads me to a serious question: how is it possible that the White Bear Yacht Club isn’t on this list? A Willie Watson/Donald Ross design, it’s quirky, the greens are wild and wonderful, and it is a great walk (perhaps Jules Verne). Tom Doak rates it the best in Minnesota and Jim Urbina thinks it’s one of the best anywhere. If your raters haven’t seen it, I am the local historian and current golf chair. Love to welcome you anytime! Similarly, Northland in Duluth is also a real treat and might make the cut. Finally, you rank Monterey Peninsula CC at 46 — which course, Dunes or Shore?
I salute you as a fellow obsessive. Enjoy your travels and play away please.
Dr. Mammel is an astute observer, and he certainly knows his golf grounds. It’s possible, though, that he doesn’t have hundreds of course raters at his disposal. It’s even more likely that he hasn’t played his favorite courses in ALL conditions, which we strive to do. Castle Stuart, for instance, may not at first glance be better than wonderful Royal Dornoch, which has stood the test of time. However, his dismissive “lovely clubhouse” ignores the fact that Castle Stuart has the best lavatory/shower views in golf (see photo). Furthermore, I have found Castle Stuart to be playable — even fun! — in 60-mph winds, while Dornoch ceases to be amusing at 35-plus.
As for the great-walk factor, I have to point out that while Charles Dickens may be the best-selling novelist of all time, we don’t use 19th-century sales figures at Catch Basin. Barbara Taylor Bradford beats Dickens like a drum in this century; she’s sold close to 100 million books worldwide, and her first novel, A Woman of Substance, is one of the top-ten best sellers of all time. Furthermore, she’s the 31st wealthiest woman in Britain, while Dickens is … dead. Have I read any of Bradford’s books? No, but why would I? I’m busy rating golf courses.*
*Jules Verne, by the way, didn’t put much store in walks, great or otherwise. He was more into submarines and moon rockets.
The high ratings for New Richmond and Interlachen make sense to anyone who has read my near-best-seller, Ancestral Links: A Golf Obsession Spanning Generations. Coincidentally, my maternal grandfather, although a cad, was an Interlachen member, and my dad witnessed Bobby Jones’s famous lily-pad shot. Also, my dad helped construct the original New Richmond nine, a sand-greens layout.
As for 51st-ranked White Bear Yacht Club, I can only say that it won’t take much to boost it into the Top 50. In fact, I can pretty much guarantee that White Bear will make the grade if I accept the good doctor’s offer of a free round. (That is the offer, isn’t it?)
Finally, Dr. Mammel asks which of Monterey Peninsula Country Club’s layouts is ranked 46th — the Dunes or the Shore? To which I reply: Does it matter? Beautiful views, either way.
Top 50 on TV: Nothing this week, as the FedEx Cup Playoffs take a week off to blunt fan interest. However, the battle for “higher status” on the post-Q-School PGA Tour will certainly make the Web.com Tour’s Chiquita Classic must-see TV.