Tag Archives: Castle Stuart

Turnberry View Purchase Hits a Snag

Our campaign to buy and restore Scotland’s Ailsa Craig got off to a brilliant start with a thousand-dollar pledge from the American lawyer and football coach, John Mullen. I was confident that an even bigger endowment would be coming from the R&A after I received an enthusiastic bordering on chauvinistic email from David Hill, the R&A’s recently-retired championships director. But now Hill seems to be experiencing buyer’s remorse. He writes:

As much as I would love 1.) to be retired and, 2.) be the former director of championships for the R&A, [my] comment was not from THAT David Hill. I don’t want you to get an earful from the distinguished Mr. Hill on your next journey across the pond …. I’m just your average American 12 handicapper of Scottish heritage that has a passion for golf and happens to write a golf diary blog, 1beardedgolfer.

Anybody who has directed a capital campaign or served as auctioneer at a school fundraiser is familiar with this dodge. I didn’t raise my hand! … It’s a forgery! … I have an evil twin!  And now, repackaged for modern times: Somebody hacked my account!

Experience has taught me to handle these little dustups with tact and magnanimity, so I am publicly releasing Mr. Hill from his pledge of half-a-million British pounds, or whatever amount it was that he forgot to specify in his impulsive bestowal. I’m sure that other active R&Aers (if that is not an oxymoron) will promptly make up the difference. Ailsa Craig, after all, is a British rock.*

*Note to self: Check DVR for concert celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show.

Looking for cheaper thrills? They’ll be here soon in the form of a new edition of Tom Doak’s The Confidential Guide to Golf Courses. Doak’s original book, published 15 years ago and now selling for more than $250 a copy, featured his feverish reviews of the world’s best-known layouts, some of which provoked outrage from established course architects. Now that he is an acclaimed designer in his own right (22nd-ranked Old Macdonald, 48th-ranked Streamsong Blue and four other top-100 tracks), Doak has enlisted three co-authors for his update, which will appear in five volumes, starting with “Great Britain and Ireland.”

To whet our appetites, a recent Doak newsletter offered up several “Best of 2013” lists that seem to endorse the Top 50’s more-scientific ranking. For instance, fifth-ranked Castle Stuart Golf Links placed second and 32nd-ranked Mid Pines Inn and Golf Club placed third on Doak’s “Top Ten Discoveries of 2013,” otherwise described as “Best courses I saw for the first time.” Similarly, Doak reveals himself to being a step behind Garrity when he picks the par-4 third at Castle Stuart and the par-5 fifth on No. 1 Carne’s new Kilmore nine among his “Best Golf Holes Discovered in 2013.”

In fairness to Doak, no lone actor can hope to match the Top 50’s resources. And if you believe that, I’ve got an island in the Firth of Clyde to sell you.

Kilmore Links at Carne

Carne’s Kilmore links: Would a better name be Steroidal Dunes? (Larry Lambrecht)

Top 50 on TV: Nothing this week — sorry, 51st-ranked Riviera Country Club — but Links Magazine’s Thomas Dunne has written a compelling review of the above-mentioned Kilmore nine at top-ranked Carne. “It’s a certain kind of golfer who is attracted to big-dunes links courses,” Dunne begins, no doubt thinking of me. “They’re hardy and fun-loving, more accepting of quirky design, and, perhaps, a bit more interested in pulling off heroic shots than strictly adhering to a card-and-pencil mentality.” He goes on to correctly describe Carne as the “Big Daddy” of big-dunes courses and the Kilmore as “an array of memorable holes within the grand and chaotic dunes. My favorite is the mid-length par-four 8th, where the green complex seems to rise from the valley floor like a primitive dagger.”

As the Kilmore beds down into its natural surroundings, it remains to be seen how the club will deploy the new nine. A composite routing in which [the Jim Engh/Ally McIntosh] holes are folded into Hackett’s back nine is one compelling possibility, as this combination would produce one of the most thrilling big-dune experiences in the game. However, Hackett’s front side, while set in more modest terrain (relatively speaking — it’s still Carne!), might out-punch the original back nine purely on the merits of their respective holes. The ideal solution, of course, is simply to play all 27.

Click here for the rest of Dunne’s essay. And click here to book a round at Carne. (Full disclosure: I am an honorary lifetime member, but I receive no commission for referrals.)

5 Comments

Filed under golf

Minnesota Doctor Questions Our Picks

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.

Mark

Lavatory view from men's loo.

Castle Stuart’s 9th green, as seen from the clubhouse lav. (John Garrity)

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.

New Richmond golf

New Richmond not worthy? Augusta National would kill for tulips like these. (John Garrity)

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under golf

Carne’s 17th Is Still a Beast

“Back from the northwest of Ireland and three rounds at Carne,” writes Jay Morse, a real person and editor of forelinksters.com. “What a classic, wild and ranging layout, in a most stunning setting.”

Carne Golf Links

The Kilmore Nine at Carne: a decade of waiting will soon end. (Photo by Larry Lambrecht)

Jay refers, of course, to the second-ranked Carne Golf Links of Belmullet, County Mayo, which has held the No. 2 spot on the Top 50 since I wrote about it in my near best-seller, Ancestral Links: A Golf Obsession Spanning Generations. 

“Thanks to your book,” Jay continues, “we became obsessed with journeying there and made it the only three-round stop of our trip. It’s definitely one of those courses where local knowledge is essential to scoring well, and I’m glad we had a few days in the village of Belmullet, as well.”

Reading between the lines, I infer that Jay found his requisite “local knowledge” in the village, possibly at McDonnells, the legendary pub on Barrack Street, just off the town square. But he goes on to write about Carne’s infamous seventeenth hole, a par 4 that superficially resembles the famous Road Hole at 16th-ranked St. Andrews Old, except that it’s far scarier, much more scenic, and adds the risk of a lost golfer to the mundane possibility of lost balls.

I thought you’d get a kick out of one of our bets. We had twelve guys, and each day we had four bets running — Magic 2’s, Skins, a match-play event, and a no-skill-required “Bet of the Day,” just so all levels of play had a shot at winning. The bet on the last day at Carne was how many pars there would be on #17. The handicaps ranged from the low single digits to a few at 17/18, with the balance at 10-12. Guesses on the number of pars ranged from one to five, and the winning number was just one par. But, interestingly, it only happened as a fluke. I hit my third shot to about six feet, and then another guy in our group pitched his third onto the green. His ball hit my ball and ricocheted to within an inch of the lip for the only par. What’s more, after three days, this was the only par out of the group!

Thanks again John for bringing our attention to Carne. The new nine is apparently opening next week, I guess we’ll have to return.

Carne’s “new nine,” as Jay and I call it, is indeed ready for play after nearly a decade of patient development. Only now it has a name of its own. But we’ll let our friends at Links Magazine scoop us on that:

In a sure sign the Celtic Tiger may be purring again, the long-awaited third nine at Carne Golf Links in Co. Mayo, Ireland, debuts this month, marking the nation’s first significant new-build since the 2008 financial meltdown. The Kilmore nine, as it’s called, will circulate players through the largest dunes on the remote 280-acre property. The new holes, first suggested by original designer Eddie Hackett shortly before his death in 1996, were mapped out by American designer and devoted Carne fan Jim Engh in 2004. His plan was adopted in part by Irish architect Ally McIntosh, who was hired by the club to produce the final design. Like the core 18, the new holes were built on a shoestring budget, with a small local workforce overseeing the low impact construction. With its mountainous sand hills and wild, woolly challenges, Carne could host a future Irish Open if the organizers were ever stuck for a genuine links course with great Atlantic views and loads of charm and character.

I migrate to Carne every summer, so I have played most of the Kilmore holes — but not with greens. Therefore my scores — impressive strings of ones and twos — do not paint a realistic picture of the completed nine. I can say without reservation that the new nine is breathtaking in every sense of the word, which is why I’m packing an oxygen bottle.

Meanwhile, Audible.com has licensed the aural rights to Ancestral Links and is auditioning potential narrators. If Audible asks for my input, I’ll suggest Peter Kessler, who is fond of the book, or myself, because I lived it. Third choice: Gary Van Sickle, because he still has wet socks drying on the radiator at the Broadhaven Bay Hotel.

Top 50 on TV: The Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open returns to fifth-ranked Castle Stuart Golf Links, and so far it has been blessed with fair weather. Nothing like 2011, when record rains caused a cliff to collapse onto a firth-side fairway, causing major inconvenience to players and spectators alike. According to reports, the lumps in the first fairway have been grassed over and the course continues to enchant tour players not named Graeme McDowell.

3 Comments

Filed under golf

Sand Hollow: A Drier Cypress Point?

“Sorry to wake you,” whispered my aide-de-camp, gently tapping my forehead with a spoon. “There’s an urgent message from Catch Basin.”

I rolled off my cot in one motion and threw back the tent flap. The desert sunlight seared my eyes, but I willed them not to squint. Or even dilate.

“It was inevitable,” I said, sounding a perfect note of fatalism. “I told her that no one would believe she was writing a sequel to my biography.”

“No, sir, it’s not that,” Walters said. “It’s the latest course ratings. The computer room is questioning Sand Hollow at number 20.”

Relieved, I stepped back into the shadows. “It’s not a mistake. Text them immediately” — I caught myself — “or rather, call them on the encrypted land line and tell them to post the new Top 50 pronto, or there’ll be hell to pay. Oh, and get me some eye drops.”

And that, readers, is how The Golf Course at Sand Hollow Resort cracked the Top 50 for the first time. Designed by former tour pro John Fought III and open for a mere four years (and already ranked No. 1 among Utah’s public courses), Sand Hollow makes the grandest splash in the ranking since Castle Stuart debuted three years ago at No. 10.

Sand Hollow's 12th

The twelfth at Sand Hollow, like an episode of “Burn Notice,” is a cliff-hanger. (Photo courtesy of Sand Hollow Resort)

“I would rate Sand Hollow number one among desert and mountain courses,” says our course-ranking director, Gary Van Sickle, “not to disparage Arizona’s 51st-ranked Desert Mountain. I’d rank Sand Hollow higher even than Tom Fazio’s Vegas stunner, Shadow Creek, which, to be honest, I’ve never been invited to play — hint, hint — or 51st-ranked Coyote Springs, which I’ve had the pleasure of playing and recommending to travelers to Vegas who don’t mind an hour’s drive to a nest of mountain ranges not far from Mesquite, Nevada, which, as you know, is headquarters for the Re/Max World Long Drive Championship ….”*

*The complete text of Van Sickle’s quote will be published in a later post. 

Coincidentally, Van Sickle and I played a fortuitous round at Sand Hollow a mere week before the course’s surprising ascent in the ratings. Also coincidentally, we played that round with Fought (rhymes with “boat”), who dropped in from nearby Scottsdale to show off the still-impressive skills that won him the 1977 U.S. Amateur, a spot on the victorious 1977 U.S. Walker Cup team, PGA Tour rookie-of-the-year honors and back-to-back Tour wins in 1979. (Fought’s designing career, launched when back and neck injuries drove him off the Tour, has produced original tracks such as 51st-ranked Pumpkin Ridge in Oregon and a wonderful restoration of Donald Ross’s Pine Needles GC in Southern Pines, N.C.)*

*The compete text of a Q&A with Fought will appear in a later post.

The Top 50 ratings are rigorously scientific, but I see no harm in sharing my subjective appraisal of Sand Hollow’s 7,300-yard Championship Course: “Fantastic … awe-inspiring … the best use of desert since John Ford filmed She Wore a Yellow Ribbon ….” From its pinnacle clubhouse, which affords one of the most spectacular views in golf, to its back-nine run of holes along red-sandstone cliffs, Sand Hollow provides scenic thrills heretofore available only on seaside courses like Cypress Point, Carne and Askernish.

Sand Hollow also has a Fought-designed 9-hole Links Course, which features broad, knobby fairways and sprawling greens that retain every feature of the underlying terrain. “We tried to keep everything as natural as possible,” said Fought, who added that Sand Hollow’s trademark red-sand bunkers were not a design conceit. “If we’d trucked in outside sand, it would’ve turned red. That’s just how it is out here.”

Situated just north of St. George, Utah, off I-15, Sand Hollow is no more than an hour’s drive from Mesquite and maybe two hours from Vegas.*

*In an upcoming post, I’ll examine the paradox of 20th-ranked Sand Hollow being much higher in elevation than 19th-ranked Sand Hills

Top 50 on TV: Nothing this week, but the Top 50 Golf Team achieved modest success at last week’s Mesquite Media Classic in Mesquite, Nev. Team captain and past champion Gary Van Sickle finished second in the championship flight. Top 50 founder and CEO John Garrity tied for second in Flight 2 with Al Barkow, the legendary golf editor, biographer of Sam Snead and author of Golf’s Golden Grind. In a tie-breaker at the Oasis Golf Club, Garrity smashed a Big Break Mesquite window target in three tries, three fewer than Barkow needed. The tie-breaker, however, was not recognized by Tournament Director Bill Huffman.

1 Comment

Filed under golf

‘World’s Best Course’: Where Does It Rank?

“Save five or more spots on your next list for the new ‘Best Course in the World,’” writes golf architect Bill Amick, a Top 50 fixture. “That’s according to it’s developer, one of the world’s most humble persons.”

Filtering out the sarcasm, I infer that Amick wants us to take a look at the Trump International Golf Links of Aberdeen, Scotland, Donald Trump’s latest and most-ambitious golf project. But unbenownst to Amick, Trump-Aberdeen debuted last month at No. 51 on the strength of Travelin’ Joe Passov’s GOLF Magazine review, which was grudgingly favorable. “For all the hyperbole,” Joe wrote with gritted teeth, “Trump Scotland might turn out to be as good as advertised.”

No course cracks the Top 50 until it’s been rated by myself or by our ratings director, Gary Van Sickle. Neither of us, sad to say, has been able to get up to Aberdeen for a walkaround. In the meantime, we’re waiting to hear from Amick, who was invited to the grand opening by Trump Scotland’s designer, Martin Hawtree, who was celebrating the 100th anniversary of his firm.*

* Hawtree, known for his renovation of Royal Birkdale Golf Club and other Open Championship venues, has not been around that long. The firm, which describes itself as “The World’s Longest Continuous Golf Architectural Practice,” was founded in 1912 by Martin’s grandfather, Frederic George Hawtree, and carried on by his father, Frederic William Hawtree.

Judging solely from photographs, I’m inclined to put TIGL in the upper echelon of modern links courses, close behind sixth-ranked Castle Stuart, the eighth-ranked European Club, and 40th-ranked Kingsbarns. Had Trump not spent $155 million on it, I might even compare his Aberdeen track to the incomparable Askernish and Carne links, currently rated one-two. (Old Tom Morris designed the former for ten shillings per hole, while the great Eddie Hackett gave Carne seven years of his attention in return for a few expense checks, which he was loath to cash.)

“After Aberdeen I go to Ghana,” Amick concludes, “where I’m designing a dwarf course at a new eco lodge.”

Unsure of what constitutes a dwarf course, I Googled the term and found a YouTube video called “Dwarf Course 1,” which shows British teenagers running a playground obstacle course. “Eco Lodge,” meanwhile, linked me to a number of “green hotels,” including a treehouse lodge in the Australian rain forest. I could speculate on what Amick has in mind for West Africa, but I think I’ll just wait for his next e-mail.

Castle Stuart

Castle Stuart was built for windy conditions. Note the whitecaps on the Moray Firth. (John Garrity)

Top 50 on TV: Nothing this week, but Castle Stuart just concluded its second hosting of the Scottish Open with Jeev Milkha Singh claiming the trophy. “After three opening rounds of very low scoring, Castle Stuart finally bared its teeth,” reports the Associated Press. “A fierce westerly wind and heavy rain at times proved too much for top-ranked Luke Donald (73) and Phil Mickelson (74), who both finished tied for 16th at 12-under.” The AP doesn’t quantify how “fierce” the wind was, but I’ve played Castle Stuart in gusts of up to 65 mph, which blew my bag over, shattered my umbrella, and caused my ball to roll of its own accord on the back of the 12th green. That aside, the course was both playable and enjoyable. Castle Stuart deserves its sixth ranking.

It’s on to Royal Lytham & St. Annes (No. 132) for the Open Championship. Wet and windy weather is forecast.

2 Comments

Filed under golf

Troon North Benefits from Ying Correction

“Your Top 50 rating of Conestoga Golf Club at 8.09 is ludicrous,” writes Gary Van Sickle of Retrograde, Pa. “I’ve gone over the numbers repeatedly and never gotten more than an 8.05. This is a complete travesty — as opposed to a partial travesty, which no one likes.”

Conestoga Par 3

The par-3 fifth hole at Conestoga Golf Club: Too isolated? Or perfectly isolated? (John Garrity)

I usually dispose of crank e-mails by tapping the garbage-can icon, but something about this particular missive made me hesitate. Then it hit me: Van Sickle is our PGA Tour correspondent and executive director for course rating. So, with a heavy sigh, I re-read his rant and then forwarded it to Y. E. Ying, the Cal Sci “hotshot” who’s been crunching our numbers since Charlie Eppes ran off to Europe with what’s-her-name.

“Will check,” Ying texted me back. Two days later, he texted me again. “Van Sickle is correct. Conestoga GC of Mesquite, Nev., scores at 8.05 and should be ranked 55th. No. 50, at 8.09, is Pinnacle Course at Troon North Golf Club, Scottsdale, Az. Sorry. Please excuse error.”

Sorry? The Top 50 doesn’t publish apologies! The Top 50 publishes authoritative, 100% confirmed empirical data culled from the golf industry’s most comprehensive course-evaluation protocols. I’d have fired Ying on the spot if I didn’t have to run everything past a bankruptcy judge.

Another reader, who calls herself “Anon-a-mouse,” asks if I can tell the difference between closely-ranked courses like Conestoga and Troon North. My honest answer is no. I played Conestoga a few months ago and was blown away by its high-desert beauty. I played Troon North in February (as adjunct faculty at the Tour Tempo VIP School) and was similarly blown away by its high-desert beauty. Conestoga is more rugged and natural, with canyon holes that leave you feeling completely cut off from civilization. Troon’s Pinnacle course is the more difficult to play, with cactus patches that practically gobble up the wandering drive.

Ask me which is better, and I can only shrug. That’s why I employ only scientific criteria to rank the world’s courses from top (Askernish Old) to bottom (Ft. Meade City Mobile Home Park Golf Course). That’s why we confidently claim to be “99.9% accurate.” And that’s why we promptly correct the rare error made by a pocket-protector know-it-all who never returns our calls.

Top 50 on TV: Nothing this week, but congratulations to Top 50 favorite Gil Hanse and LPGA Hall of Famer Amy Alcott for bagging the Brazil Olympics course-design contract. Coincidentally, Hanse’s acclaimed Castle Stuart Golf Links jumps two spots to No. 5. Way to go, Gil!

Leave a comment

Filed under golf

Merion Tops Van Sickle Bucket List

SI senior writer Gary Van Sickle took an apologetic tone in a recent e-mail. “Forgot to give you my must-play list,” he wrote. Then he shared his list. Then he apologized again. “I’m sure I left out some big course I haven’t played yet, but this was right off the top of my head and, as you know, there isn’t much left up there.”

Castle Stuart 10th Tee

Castle Stuart: Come July, Eurotour will pay the piper.

He continued: “Colonial? I’ve walked it so many times, but I’m not sure if I’ve actually played it. There’s still eight states I haven’t played golf in, but I’m working on it. Amazingly, Kansas is one of them. Also the Dakotas and most of the Pacific northwest, except Washington.”

Gary drew up his list of “great courses I have yet to play” in response to my own bucket list of must-play tracks, which was, in turn, inspired by “Travelin’ Joe” Passov’s wish list on Golf.com. Gary, like Joe, has played more than a thousand golf courses and, like me, he prefers to change his shoes in the parking lot. That may explain why Gary hasn’t gotten invitations from the most exclusive clubs on his list.

Anyway, here’s Gary’s bucket list:

1. East Course, Merion Golf Club, Ardmore, Pa.  (“Covered my first U.S. Open there. David Graham beat George Burns.)

2. Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, Bandon, Ore. (“Haven’t been there yet.”)

3. Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, Bandon, Ore. (“The second course. Or is it the third?”)

4. Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, Bandon, Ore. (“Isn’t there one they sing about in kindergarten?”)

5. Sand Hills Golf Club, Mullen, Neb. (“Haven’t been there either.”)

6. Seminole Golf Club, Juno Beach, Fla. (“If Bob Ford is their pro in the winter, it’s got to be a good club. Hard to believe a course in Florida could be anything special, though. It’s freakin’ Florida.”)

7. National Golf Links of America, Southampton, N.Y.. (“Who doesn’t love windmills? They’re fantastic in miniature golf.”

8. Fishers Island Club, Fishers Island, N.Y. (“Not even sure where it is, but everybody raves about it. I suspect it’s like Tickle Me Elmo. Fantastic when nobody can get one. When the shelves are full of them, it’s just another toy.”)

9. Philadelphia Cricket Club, Philadelphia, Pa. (“Bamberger is a member there. Screw him.”)

10. The Camargo Club, Cincinnati, Ohio. (“Reminds me of my favorite knock-knock joke. Who’s there? ‘Argo.’ Argo who? ‘Arrr, go f— yourself.’”

“That’s my American list,” Gary wrote. “I could start talking about all the great courses I’ve missed in Scotland and Ireland, but there’s too many, and it’s just too sad to think about.” And finally, after thinking about it: “Castle Stuart!”

I have played only one of the courses on Gary’s list — Seminole — but four of his wannaplays are in my Top 50. This proves that courses can’t buy or bribe their way into my rankings.* It’s also a good test of Travelin’ Joe’s theory that a golf writer can shorten his bucket list by publishing a Ten-Courses-I-Need-to-Play column. (An invitation to  play Prairie Dunes has already fallen into Joe’s hopper. Can Cape Kidnappers be far behind?)

*Although I’m always willing to parse the Top 50 over a sandwich and 7up at the halfway house of any course in GOLF Magazine’s Top 100.

I, meanwhile, have heard nothing from Indian Army 9-Hole Golf Course (Ladakh) or any of the other courses on my own wish list, posted a couple of weeks ago. Is it too soon to write my Ten-Most-Overrated-Golf-Courses column?

Top 50 on TV: Nothing this week, but the European Tour has confirmed that Castle Stuart Golf Links of Inverness, Scotland, will the new venue for the Scottish Open. The Eurotour’s decision was almost certainly driven by two-year-old Castle Stuart’s Top-10 ranking in this space. In appreciation, the technical staff at Catch Basin has boosted Castle Stuart two rungs to No. 7, replacing Pebble Beach Golf Links as the world’s best cliffside course. The Cal Sci Algorithm will be jiggered to reflect the change.

1 Comment

Filed under golf