1. Kummel = No

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  2. Kummel = Yes (plus in the halfway hut too!)

    RCPGC, or 'Deal' as it is often known due to being situated in a town of that name, is a wonderful course and club. It isn't as well known as the other great Open courses of the UK, but it really should be and if they are successful in eventually bringing the Open back for a third time then Deal will undoubtedly reclaim its place as one of the best, if not the best, links course in England.

    Only an hour and a bit from London, Deal has a beautiful old white clubhouse which is perfectly suited to a club with so much history. It was in front of this clubhouse that Walter Hagen had his chauffeur serve him dinner after being refused entry to the clubhouse for being a professional. The decor is almost a little old and shabby, but in classy way - the formal bar for example has bare wooden floorboards! Outside on the balcony is a damaged plague that was hit by the bullets of a German fighter pilot who clearly didn't like golf! I also happened to like the fact that there was a painting of my home clubhouse at Panmure hanging in the cosy old fashioned locker room.

    The best part of Deal, however, has to be the course. I will update this in more detail when I have some photos to put up, but for the moment I will just say that there are not even any average holes. In fact at least half of the holes are classics, invariably playing over land that has always been destined to have a golf course built on it. Your score must be made on the front nine, for the back nine is huge, narrow, and when I played it at least it was into the wind! I got to the 16th tee and realised that I only had one ball left, and then proceeded to lose it behind a World War II pillbox! Fortunately one of the local green keepers was playing behind me and lent me a ball to finish the round with... how embarrassing... and after I'd played the first 8 in +1 as well!!

    Overall this is one of the best courses I have played anywhere, and that is really saying something... which is all the more surprising because there are no real landmarks at Deal. It is a classic out and back links course, hard against the sea wall built after flooding forced them to relocate two Opens to Royal St Georges. The fact that despite this every hole is memorable is a testament to just how good a design it is.

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  3. Kummel = No

    The Olympia Fields Country Club north course held the 1928 and 2003 US Open Championships. I was in Chicago on business after having stopped in Atlanta to play East Lake again. The course is very nice - a typical US Open parkland course, it was in good condition and had a fabulous clubhouse. The club at one time was the biggest country club in the country with four courses, however the other three courses were sold off and the few remaining holes they kept were combined into the current south course.

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  4. Kummel = Yes

    East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta was once the golf course of the Atlanta Athletic Club (AAC). In the 1970s, however, the East Lake area was being referred to by the police as 'Little Vietnam' as the crime rates soared, so the AAC uprooted and moved to their current location in the suburbs. As a result East Lake, the course that Bobby Jones grew up on, fell into a state of disrepair.

    Then in the early 1990s an Atlanta businessman called Tom Cousins bought the club and set up a foundation whereby the club profits would help improve the surrounding area. After a total overhaul the course and clubhouse were restored to their 1930s Bobby Jones era configuration, and within years the surrounding neighbourhood was being extolled as an example of how to successfully regenerate a community.

    The East Lake course is a classic design, built around the lake and Tudor style clubhouse (which is almost a Bobby Jones museum!). The 6th was one of the first island greens in the United States and in the 1950s the club hosted the Ryder Cup.

    The club has also hosted the season ending Tour Championship for the last few years and will continue to do so in it's new Fedex Cup format.

    When you are within the gates of East Lake you could be back in the 1920s watching a young Bobby Jones wandering the fairways. It is a truly special place.

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  5. Kummel = No

    One of America's oldest clubs, America's oldest clubhouse and one of America's finest courses. Things really are done differently in the Hamptons, out at the eastern end of Long Island. Set in a beautiful area with beautiful windswept scenery, the clubhouse sits atop a hill and looks out over the course in a way reminiscent of Muirfield. The course is one of the hardest on the US Open rota and about as close as you can get to a links course in the United States. The first time I tried to play here Shinnecock had the worst rain in years the very day I arrived, and by the end of lunch the 9th green had turned into a lake!

    Undetered we went to a dinner party, drove back to New York the next morning, and a week later flew from Baltimore to Long Island Islip Airport to try again. This time we were greeted by beautiful sunshine as you can see in the photos below.

    We started at the 14th, and played all the way around to finish on the 13th, hoping to have time to play 14 thru 18 again, but alas our flight back to Baltimore was approaching too fast. Still, a great day out - weather-wise if not golf-wise... this is one hard course.

    Surprisingly my great driving at Augusta had stayed with me and I split almost every fairway. Unfortunately though I didn't seem to be able to hit an iron to save my life! Anyway, the design is excellent, the condition fantastic. Oh, and if the number one barometer of the greatness of a club is anything to go by (that's their club sandwiches by the way), Shinnecock Hills is one of the finest there is.

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  6. Kummel = Yes

    The first thing that you notice about the par 3 course at Augusta is how short it is. It's more of a pitch and putt course than a par 3 course, with the first 5 holes less than 100 yards, the 6th hole a wedge and the 7th hole again tiny. At this point it gets more interesting... there are actually 11 holes and the two holes that used to make up the full 9 are again less than 100 yard affairs. However these aren't played in the par 3 competition on the Wednesday before the masters (as far as I'm aware anyway) since they built a new 8th and 9th over the fishing pond that was built on President Eisenhower's recommendation. The 8th is a flick with a wedge but from a high tee to a tiny green with water short, right and long (the bottom photo above). It may look easy but when you play it for the first time it's very hard to judge the distance! Then the 9th plays from a tee down by the water, a slightly longer hole than the 8th, and to a green that is built out from the far side of the lake towards you... ie. water left right and short (the top photo above). Again the green is small and judging the distance is tough... I had less than 10ft birdie putts on most of the holes (which I generally missed!) to leave me -1 through 7, only to hit two balls in the water on the 8th and one in the water on the 9th. Oh well, I can at least blame the fact that it was 1pm, unbearably hot and I'd just played the big course all the way round so was pretty tired... (always good to have excuses!).

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  7. Kummel = Yes

    What can you say... Home of the Masters Tournament, the most beautiful golf course on earth... and almost certainly the one that every golfer wants to play the most.

    The atmosphere at Augusta is incredible. It's like teeing off on the 18th at St Andrews for the first time, multiplied by ten, on every single shot. I was lucky that this was the one round of my life where my game came together completely and I hit good shots on almost all the famous holes. In particular my driving was excellent, despite normally being the worst part of my game.

    On the drive to Augusta I had been thinking about my swing and I decided to stand closer to the ball and think of a more vertical power fade swing... It worked a treat and on every tee I knew it was going miles up the middle, right out of the sweet spot, and falling slowly from the hot Georgia sky in the distance against the lush green backdrop of trees. Combined with that feeling when you first go to the masters or see the course... the excitement in the air... to hit a perfect drive up a hole at Augusta is the greatest moment I've felt in golf. Better than holes in one. Better than great victories. When I think about it now and how badly I was hitting it in some of the rounds I played before Augusta, I'm so glad I was driving well - it would have ruined the whole experience if I was in the trees on every hole.

    Incidentally if you look at the photos of the previous week at Pine Valley (in particular the photo on the 5th) you can see that I was indeed standing far too far from the ball. One wonders how I managed to hit any straight shots at PV! But back to Augusta...

    On the 12th I hit my tee shot to 20ft and two putted for par.

    On the 13th I drew the ball around the corner off the tee, then hit a 3 iron with the ball above my feet to about 25ft in two, and two putts later I had a birdie.

    The second putt however hadn't been a tap in - the first putt bent strongly to the right (and the creek!) and finished a little over two feet below the hole. As I was standing over the second putt I knew if I missed it that for the rest of my life I would never be able to think of the 13th - my favourite hole - without remembering that I missed a sitter for birdie. Then just as I was about to pull the club back my friend Ferg who was holding the flag off to the side said "Gordon, you know if you miss this you're going to regret it forever!" - probably in one of those moments when you're worried for someone and think you're helping by giving a warning. I didn't move except to lift my head and reply "Ferg, if I miss this I'm going to murder you, and that's not a joke...", look back down at the ball, and thankfully stroke it straight into the middle of the cup (see above photo). I have never felt as nervous as I did at that moment, even when giving a 10 minute speech without notes in the clubhouse to about 100 people the month before at the Masters.

    Come to think of it on almost every famous shot I was under a lot of pressure and thinking that I might not get to hit this shot ever again if I fluff it! All I can say is thank god I holed that putt - no matter what happens in life, that one isn't coming back out of the hole!!!

    So anyway, I didn't have to murder Ferg, and then on the 18th I hit an open faced 5 iron uphill and into the wind from close to the lip of the second fairway bunker, landing in the middle of the green and setting up a two putt for a seven over 79 (see photo above). Sandy Lyle are you watching?

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  8. Kummel = Yes

    Merion Golf Club's East Course - frequent major venue and the site of one of the greatest moments in golfing history. It was here on the 11th green (middle photo above) in the 1930 US Amateur that a conceded putt made Bobby Jones the first (and so far only) man in history to win the Grand Slam of golf. Merion starts off with the best opening tee shot in club golf... not because of the design of the hole, but because half of Philly is sitting having lunch not 20ft away from you as you take your first swing on a tee that is almost part of the clubhouse luncheon patio! The bunkering is beautiful, the rough is brutal (and that was despite the fact they cut it just before I played there - normally I have no idea how you'd even locate your ball!), and the holes are all memorable. In particular the 3rd is a great long par three to a raised green, the 5th is one of the hardest holes on the course with it's slanting fairway and green, and the 11th is a great short par four made famous by Bobby's Grand Slam win on the green. And then there is the finish. The par four 16th over part of the quarry, the huge par three 17th back over it, and then the long and classic par four 18th, stars and stripes in the distance, and impossible to play without thinking of the famous photo of Ben Hogan hitting his 1 iron to the green to win the 1950 US Open (which with the aid of some photoshopped spectators I have recreated above!). A classic course, a great golfer's club and clubhouse. Merion is steeped in tradition and one of the most fun places I've ever played. Finally, the routing at Merion is superb, despite being laid out over a fairly small area surrounded by housing. The course is laid out in a giant L shape, and if Carnoustie and its brilliant giant C shaped routing is anything to go by, there is something in the routing of a course in the shape of a letter!

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  9. Kummel = Yes

    Consistently rated the number one golf course in the world, Pine Valley is the best course design I've ever played. Every hole is memorable, and despite being fairly short it is also considered one of the most difficult courses in the world. This might be something to do with the fact that there is no rough to speak of... instead the fairways are raised islands of grass in rolling hills of sand. Miss the generously wide fairways and you're in a cross between a bunker and scrubland... and there are no rakes so it is very uneven... oh and did I forget to mention there is a local rule which removes the unplayable ball rule... so when your ball goes down a 2 ft deep footprint you have to just swing at it until it moves. Nice. Having said all this and despite my driving being all over the place, I really didn't find the course that difficult. Yes I was playing from the members tees, but Pine Valley isn't huge from the back tees either. The thing is that the fairways tend to be huge and so hitting a 1 iron from the tee there is really no excuse for missing them. There are a few tricky shots to greens, notably the 3rd tee shot, the 5th tee shot, the approach to the 8th, the approach to the 13th and the approach to the 16th. However the rest of the course if you play for the middle of green you're fairly safe. I think the reason it's considered so hard is that it only takes one bad shot and you can be completely scuppered as described before. I hit more than a few bad shots, and despite nightmares on the 1st (drive into the trees on the right), 7th (fat wedge into the green put me in the wasteland), 15th (tee shot into lake, reloaded) and 18th (tee shot into trees on the right) I still got round in 81. If only I hadn't hit those stupid shots... but then I think that is what everyone says as they cross the railway line and leave Pine Valley...

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  10. Kummel = No

    When my brother and I turned up in Monterrey the week we played here we had almost no golf lined up due to a mix of unforseen circumstances and bad planning on my part. However the friend we were staying with had within days amazingly organised a whole week of golf for us, with the highlight being a round at Pebble (plus a free one shot bottle of whisky!). It was hard to believe how generous he was and it's something I'll be forever thankful for. Pebble Beach has to be the greatest location that a golf course could ever be built at. The holes that hug the shoreline are dramatic and famous, but it is the inland holes that make this a truely brilliant course. In contrast to the spectacular 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 18th, etc., the inland holes often get criticised for being flat and boring. But I think that's not very fair. Given that the whole course is built on the land as it naturally was, and how flat a lot of that land is, the inland holes are still memorable and classic. For example the second hole, a par 5, is completely flat and open... but it doesn't try to be something it's not. No silly american wiggly fairway edges, no pond infront of the green to trick it up... just a straight, challenging hole, beautifully set by bunkers, and looking like it came straight from Carnoustie. Wonderful! Incidentally when I played here I shot 79... including playing 17 and 18 in almost total darkness. Despite this I hit a 5 iron to 2ft and a birdie on 17 and then on the 18th hit driver, 3 wood and a sand wedge pitch from 40 yards in the light from the hotel, to about 10ft and only just missed the putt. Still, one under for the last two holes in the dark isn't bad. It was probably because I couldn't see the sea and so couldn't be scared by it! Note that the photo above of the 18th was taken during the day and not when we played it (since the photos from that point were just plain black!).

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  11. Kummel = No

    Spyglass Hill - the club rather than the course - owns a lease on the golf course. What many people don't know is that when that lease expires in the not too distant future the course will become outwith their control. A sad situation for a club with a famous past. Still, I think it's the Pebble Beach people or something that will own it so the golf course won't disappear or anything!

    Spyglass is known nationally for being used in the Pebble Beach pro-am tournaments... and it is a true championship golf course. The only pity is that the first 5 holes play in Cypress Point territory and have a lovely linksland feel to them (see photo), whereas the rest of the course leaves this behind for fairly nice parkland surroundings. If only they had built the whole course on those lovely 17 mile drive sand dunes... oh wait they did, and it's called the Cypress Point Club!

    But back to Spyglass - a great course that gets less exciting the closer to the 18th you get. One impressive feature though is a radio communication between the 9th tee and the halfway hut so you can get your burger order in and have it waiting for you when you arrive. Genius! I played this course in the morning and Pebble Beach in the afternoon. I really needed that burger.

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  12. Kummel = No

    The Links at Spanish Bay is a resort course that was originally designed with the noble intention of recreating a Scottish style links course. It achieved this in terms of playing conditions, but fell victim to the classic American tendency to over-complicate things. Rather than the traditional fairway edges of links courses that tend not to overly wiggle unless there is a natural reason for it, Spanish Bay's fairways tend to have an amoeba-like quality in places. Still, despite all the artificial mounting, no doubt intended to look like sand dunes to someone who had never see one before, the course is still a decent enough design for a fun day out. But then the guests started complaining that they were paying so much and getting bad lies (ie. not perfect lush lies) and so they started watering the course and turned it into target golf, thereby removing one of the good features of the course!

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  13. Kummel = No

    I played both the Dunes and Shore course last time I visited the area... I preferred the Shore course slightly, although both were good. The Shore course has recently been redesigned, with many holes changing direction completely. The 18th (above) now finishes a little walk away from the clubhouse which is odd, but overall the redesign has been a vast improvement (or so I hear!). The main difference from the Dunes course is that the Shore (unsurprisingly, perhaps!) plays mainly down near the shore on open and exposed linksland. Only the first and last couple of holes are sheltered by trees. The clubhouse was undergoing a major refurbishment when I visited, but when it's done it's going to be even more impressive than it was before, which is hard to imagine! A great location for golf, and a great club.

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  14. Kummel = No

    I played both the Dunes and Shore course last time I visited the area... I think I preferred the Shore course slightly, although the Dunes is very good too. It starts off by winding uphill and inland through lush parkland before turning and heading down to the linksland and the sea. There is a par 3 at this point that is about 200yards from the back tee, over the sea, to a peninsula green, fully exposed to the Pacific Ocean! The course remains on the linksland until the last couple of holes, which head back inland and uphill to the clubhouse. When I was there the clubhouse was undergoing a major refurbishment, but when it's done it's going to be even more impressive than it was before, which is hard to imagine! A great location for golf, and a great club.

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  15. Kummel = No

    The Piedmont Driving Club's downtown clubhouse makes the best toasted buttery crackers in the whole world. So I had high expectations for their new golf course outside Atlanta. It isn't a championship course, but it is a beautiful private club course... and the last few holes are more water than dry land, with lots of spectacular shots. There is a lot of mounding, some of which rewards the bad shot by kicking the ball back into the fairway or back onto the green, but overall the club is great and the scenery beautiful which is all that is required for a great day out with friends.

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