First off, sorry for the click-baity title there, but how else was I supposed to describe a list of golf courses? With that apology out of the way, I won’t waste time introducing this post since I’m sure people never read anything other than the titles in list posts. Also, this article isn’t meant to be full reviews of the courses, that would take up too much space. Rather, this represents a quick hit on some of the notable courses I got to play this past year. They aren’t ranked against each other, but instead listed in the time order I played them. First up, Alabama.
This past end of January 2016, so coming up on a year ago now, I had a week off and went to play some solo golf down in Alabama on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail. And if you didn’t see some of my comments from back then, I highly highly recommend the trail.
None of the courses I played were below average, and what was great also was that it was the “offseason” which meant that it was cold enough to keep the locals away, but warm enough for me and my resistance to cold weather when golfing.
Of all the courses, I’ll highlight Ross Bridge. Mostly because it tips out at 8,191 yards, with a rating / slope of 78.5/135. It was also great because I was literally, and I mean literally in the literal sense, the only person to play the course that day.
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Back to January at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail. Cloudy but warm day at Ross Bridge. The overseeded greens were perfect, and I was the only player on the course that day. Literally nobody else. I also played the course at over 8200 yards. And had a blast doing it. Seriously, go to the RTJGT.
The cloudy sky, and lack of overseeded rough also made for some cool pictures.
The one thing that happens with an 8,000 yard course is there’s very little variation in the lengths of the holes. The par threes were all about 225 yards, and likewise on up with the par 4s and par 5s. I can’t imagine having a course that long with a drivable par 4 or something, though I think Erin Hills can claim that honor, which is over 8k and has a drivable par 4 on the second hole.
A few notes on the other courses I played on the trail: The ones at Capitol Hill were awesome, only issues were that it was in the 30s to start (cold to even me), and also that the cart ran out of juice on my second 18 of the day around the 13th hole. Oxmoor Valley was also baller, with the Ridge course being on a ridge. Scroll through those pictures on the link and check out that elevation. It was great. Also great that I got 54 holes in that day with only having to play through 2 groups. Now that’s the best.
If I only played 13 of the holes at a course, does it still count as playing a full round? Definitely not handicapwise, but in terms of this post, it sure as hell does.
The newest of the Coore Crenshaw production courses only had the front 9 officially open when we played in July, with 10, 16, 17, and 18 open for play, but without tee markers, which made finding the tees on number 16 very difficult.
The course was so new when we also played it that they were in the process of digging out grass that had grown its way into the newly sanded bunkers. The expression on the face of this high school aged dude who was doing the digging showed that he really really didn’t want to be there. But hey! That’s what summer jobs are supposed to be right?
It’s very hard to describe this type of dry, links golf when most people are used to the tree lined country club style courses with lush rough and round greens. Coore Crenshaw do use some of the “template” holes that you’ll see on those old school courses (like the punch bowl 17th, or the redan 3rd), but a lot of their green designs are novel. I think my favorite example of this is demonstrated in the second hole, with a wide fairway to the left, and an offset green to the right. Challenging the right side leads to an easier approach shot, both visually and slopewise, but there’s also a pack of trees to that side which can screw you if you veer too close.
The new Coore Crenshaw courses also feature the hip runoff areas without rough that are becoming more and more popular. Think the Olympic course by Gil Hanse, or any of the British Open rotation courses. Rough is out, runoff areas are in.
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Made it out to @sandvalleygolf recently, really cool to get a preview of the course. Played the front 9 twice, and then the 4 open holes on the back. This is the view from the 9th tee, downhill shortish par 4. Some options off the tee, but I ended up hitting driver down in the front right bunker the first time, and 3 wood to 60 yards the second time around. Excited for the rest of the course to open next year.
I was also a fan of the elevation change on the property out there. A lot of design has to do with the piece of property you’re given, and unless you pull a Pete Dye at Sawgrass where he made a course out of swamp, it’s hard to get that super highly ranked course design unless you have some elevation.
I’ve said before that to be a cool kid in the golfing world, all you need to do is talk about all the Coore & Crenshaw designed courses you’ve played in your life. And last week, a couple other of the GOTM guys (and gal) and me made it down to Dallas for a post-Christmas golf trip where the location was decided by finding a direct flight to somewhere without snow. Dallas got checkmarks for both of those, and also was home to Trinity Forest, one of the newest Coore Crenshaw designs.
Trinity Forest, plunked just south of the city and home track for SMU’s golf teams, opened in the spring of 2016, and the big wigs of Texas also gravitated to the course right away. Jordan Spieth becoming a member (he can’t play Dallas National every day amirite?), nobody’s favorite side-saddle putter with the SMU ties, Bryson DeChambeau has also joined. Throw in a former president in Dubya, and you’ve got yourself a Texas party. Also while we were out there, Cameron McCormick was giving a presumably $500 an hour lesson, and Emmett Smith was somewhere on the course, but try as we might, we had no luck in finding him.
Facility-wise, the main clubhouse is still (and was) being built, but the makeshift trailer clubhouse has to be the best trailer clubhouse in the history of trailer clubhouses. Full bar, lockers, showers, all the hair and beauty products that could possibly be needed in a men’s locker room, lounge room, TVs, shoe shine equipment, and even M&Ms that Dylan crushed after the round.
The attitude at the club was awesomely laid back too. There was a group that went off along with us, them starting on #10, who went off with those Golf Board things. Pat asked our forecaddy Jesse about the policy on phones and cameras on the course, and Jesse gave a look of “why would there be any issues with using phones?” When we rolled up in the carts that we took from the parking lot, there were a bunch of push carts there if we wanted them. And at the turn, the guy working brought out a foam cooler of beer at Dylan’s request.
We headed to the practice facility first, which featured a range with an indoor teaching area (where McCormick was teaching), and on the other side, a giant facility which we learned was for the SMU team. Off to the side was a giant sloping putting green with only 3 holes cut for some reason, and connected to that was a chipping area with bunker. Off past that was a 9 hole short course, which we didn’t play.