1. Kummel = No, and I got a waitress very confused in my attempts to acquire some

    My impressions of Sawgrass prior to playing the TPC course were based on two things: Firstly, I'd played the course endlessly on one of the early PGA Tour Golf computer games, back when golf simulators rendered course topography equivalent to a billiards table, and secondly I remembered from TV all the artificial mounding, the ugly clubhouse and of course, the par three 17th hole...

    I was pleasantly surprised to discover that this course is actually pretty darn good. The mounding has been altered over the years to look far more natural, the clubhouse has been replaced with what (from a distance at least) is a very impressive clubhouse, and the course... is still very much like playing a computer game.

    This course makes no bones about its artificial nature, and that actually is its strength. The holes can be played in a number of different ways, and while the methods employed in designing the course are far from subtle, you can't help but enjoy a round here. There is even a semi-blind second shot thrown in on the back nine, as if the 17th wasn't a difficult enough approach in itself.

    By the way, I dunked two in the water at 17... both looked stiff until they hit the front and back respectively before bouncing off. It was so much easier on PGA Tour Golf.

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  2. Kummel = Yes

    Since it is Wimbledon fortnight, I thought I'd stop watching tennis for one day at least, get some fresh air, and post an appropriate course review...

    Royal Wimbledon Golf Club - founded in 1882 and just seven miles from Piccadilly Circus - is the ideal place for a busy Londoner to spend an afternoon with friends, without having to undertake a mammoth or dangerous journey home. In fact, after one too many drinks you can simply take a 2 minute taxi to Wimbledon station, which is served by the overground to Victoria or Waterloo, and the district underground line to Fulham, South Kensington and the City beyond. Combine this with a beautiful old clubhouse and lawn with members relaxing, walking and putting, and you have the perfect golf club without even having to play the course!

    Luckily, the course is also worthy of praise... while it is undeniably a smaller scale club course than the Walton Heaths and Sunningdales of this world, it makes good use of terrain, has some great holes (especially the par 3s), and is pleasing to the eye. You really would think that you were in the middle of the countryside, when in fact the only 'countryside' nearby is a small parcel of scrubland inhabited by Wombles.

    Special mention goes to Choongy for inviting us, and for taking his shoes off to play a wonderful shot out of a ditch. Pity about the subsequent shot!

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  3. Kummel = No

    The Prince Course at Princeville, on the Hawaiian island of Kaua'i, is ranked number 39 in the US according to the Golf Digest rankings of 2007/2008. Let me start by saying that this is a load of nonsense. This Robert Trent Jones Jr. course is built on beautiful and dramatic land such that this course really could have been special. The last 8 holes get close to achieving this potential, playing as they do through dense vegetation over dramatically rolling land, with not a house in sight. There are still a few weak holes, and the general look of the course is a little too unnatural, but it still works as a fun and exciting stretch of holes. The problem with the Prince Course is the first 10 holes. After a good opening couple of holes we are then treated to a stretch of very mundane and ugly holes, surrounded by thousands of holiday homes. Strangely these bad holes are interrupted briefly by the great par 4 6th and par 3 7th (see photos above), but they resume again the boring monotony of resort golf, before breaking into the great last 8. I can't stress enough just how stark the contrast is between the good holes and the bad holes here... and it is definitely enough to ensure that it shouldn't be ranked anywhere near the top 100 in America. Jones' father designed the great Peachtree course in Atlanta, languishing at 87th in the list, and that is a far superior course to this one.

    At the end of the day the distance you would travel to play a course says a lot about it. Unless you live on the Hawaiian island of Kaua'i this one is not really worth the effort.

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  4. Kummel = No chance

    The Course at Yale is an early 20th century classic American design, jointly attributed to CB Macdonald and Seth Raynor. It plays over very hilly ground, with rocks, lakes and other such hazards in abundance. I can't overstate how much I enjoyed this course - every hole is memorable, many unique and all requiring strategic play. As per CBM/SR's norm, there are the standard template holes... a cape hole, a redan hole, etc. There is also a great par 3 hole (the 9th) to a huge long green with a valley running through it (see photo above), which I imagined was inspired by the 16th green at North Berwick, but with more education I realise that this is a biarritz hole, the original of which sadly no longer exists. It is a hard course to walk and carry your bag (as I did), but since the alternative was a golf cart I think I made the right decision. I played really well which helps with the enjoyment of a course, with my driving being unusually good. A final mention goes to the very unique 18th hole... a par 5 where you play a blind shot over a hill to the fairway, before having to make a choice... aim left to the fairway on top of a mountain and get a downhill kick towards the green (but risking a horrible side-hill lie if you miss the small island of fairway), or play to the alternative fairway to the right, but have a much longer 3rd short. A unique finishing hole to a unique course.

    The only sad thing about The Course at Yale is that there isn't the money required for the upkeep of the course to the highest standards... when I played it the greens were quite slow and spongy, and someone needs to remove the cart paths which blight the fairways. Additionally some of the greens have been lost due to some idiot at Yale deciding that undulating greens don't promote consistent putting... and then flattening them! Very sad, but still, the quality of the design here shines through and makes it a must-play regardless of condition.

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  5. Kummel = Yes

    Again, an updated post based on refreshments. As Merion does have Kummel right now but Pine Valley has run out, in my mind that means that Merion is currently ranked as better than Pine Valley.

    Compared to last time, the rough at Merion was much shorter when I played today which actually made for a much more fun game. When you have to hack out straight sideways it takes away the "do I go for it?" situations that can make or break a round. Ultimately, Merion still broke my round just as it did last time - this is the hardest course for its length that I've played. Still, I had some good holes... I played a hickory 2 wood from the 11th tee, right down the middle of the fairway, then hit my approach to 20ft and my first par in 3 attempts on the hole where Bobby Jones won the grand slam. I also played the 12th properly for par for the first time in 3 attempts. Finally, at the end of the round the 17th medal tee was back on the championship tee, making the hole 240 yards into a fairly fresh wind! I'm not embarrassed to say that I used a driver (see photo above) and nailed it pin high just on the left edge of the green! That is a tough hole.

    It's always a pleasure to play at Merion and wander round the fabulous clubhouse. You really get a sense that this is a living and breathing members club - which i would prefer if playing somewhere regularly - rather than a destination such as PV or ANGC where the member typically travels long distance every so often for a game. Sitting on the patio at Merion people are always bumping into old friends, drinking from the excellent ceramic flasks they use here, all the while watching people nervously teeing off on the 1st. There is no better apres golf location in America, or if there is I have yet to find it!

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  6. Kummel = No (they had run out...)

    I have already reviewed PV back in 2006, but since they have run out of Kummel I thought I should post an update. Thankfully, while the refreshment situation has deteriorated, I can report that the course has not. What a treat to again play such a wonderful track. Last time the not so good shots I hit were the tee shots on 10, 15 and 18. This time I hit my tee shot on 10 to 8ft (though I missed the putt), ripped my drive up the middle on 15, and ripped my drive up 18 into the wind before hitting a 4 iron to 8ft (and again missing the putt!). It is nice to have now played each hole properly at least once. All they have to do is re-stock the Kummel and everything will be perfect.

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  7. Kummel = No (but the clubhouse was closed so I couldn't be 100% sure)

    Lehigh CC was designed by William Flynn (whose most famous course was Shinnecock) in 1927. The course plays in a small valley around the Little Lehigh river and is a great example of how an American parkland course can be about more than just long rough and narrow fairways. One of the things that I noticed from the tees was that very few of the fairways are flat. Many are semi-blind (which I personally have no problem with, and actually rather like), and all use the rolling landscape to maximise the interest of each hole. The routing is very good with few consecutive holes in the same direction, the green sites are excellent and the bunkering is clever and easy on the eye. The last 5 holes are particularly good. The 14th is an uphill par 4 over a ridge that must be cleared from the tee (this is very hard from the back tee), the 15th a gentle dogleg right slightly uphill. The 16th is a great par 3 to a green beautifully situated amongst a cluster of bunkers (see lower photo above), and the 17th is a short(ish) par 4 downhill slightly to the fairway and then uphill to another interesting green. The 18th is then a very long par 4, slight dogleg right with a fairway pitching from left to right and downhill then uphill. Overall a great course and very fun to play. Thanks go to the Redanman for hosting me, and to his family for an enjoyable dinner afterwards.

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  8. Kummel = Yes

    Worplesdon Golf Club is tucked away to the west of London, near both Woking and West Hill Golf Clubs. There aren't all that many members, the course is quite short and the clubhouse is classy and understated. Essentially it is a heathland course, although it is near to the parkland end of the scale with a lot less heather than most of the true heathland courses to the west of London. The first four holes play in a loop, with the green of the uphill par 3 fourth hole directly in view of those drinking in the clubhouse - making for a few nervous putts. The course then plays away from the clubhouse, crosses a main road for a few holes and then turns for home, the whole time playing in amongst some lovely (and very expensive) houses and homes. It should be possible to make a good score around here, but for some reason I just couldn't score at all on the front nine. In my first round I was snap hooking every tee shot (which might have been a part of the reason for the bad scoring?), until on the 12th I decided to hit my hickory shafted driver, and nailed one right down the middle. Four holes later I had four straight pars, using only hickory clubs. Very strange - I guess it forces you to slow down your swing! After all of this, the reward at the end of the day is the customary cakes and coffee option, which very quickly became cakes and kummel. Overall, Worplesdon is very good. Not a championship course... but then it doesn't try to be. It is a great members club and a great place to play a friendly round of golf.

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  9. Kummel = Yes

    Littlestone Golf Club is a old, traditional links club on the south east coast of England, on the other side of Dover from RSG and RCP. The course is in part brilliant (as in the photo above, approach to the 16th), and in parts fairly average. The course is roughly an out and back routing, with a lot of zigzagging sideways towards and away from the coast. The first bit of the course is quite interesting - a flat start and then a jump over a large dune ridge. But then the rest of the outward holes are a bit flat and don't really play across linksland, until the far end where the 8th is real links again and the rest of the way in is pretty good.

    Then you get back to the clubhouse and again it is a tale of two stories... it is an old club, with a lot of history, as all the honours and titles on the list of captains attests (well, in the 1930's anyway). However, now it doesn't really feel as though it has the same old world atmosphere, or at least not to the same extent. The visitors locker rooms could be any club in the country, the bar is nice but nothing exciting.

    I should say that I did visit in November, and so possibly didn't see the club in the best of conditions, but it wasn't quite the club I expected. Never-the-less, it is still a solid local club course for a fun day out. Plus they serve Kummel, so it can't be that bad!

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  10. The London Golfer checks for any yardage markers on the hole, not entirely certain that he can trust his eye.

    Lines a raking drive with the hickory brassie over the street cleaning person and lion; probably in pretty good shape.

    ...Is accosted by security guards after just one shot, GAME OVER.

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  11. Kummel = No

    Princes Golf Club held the Open Championship in 1932 when the great Gene Sarazen won the claret jug, over what was widely considered a great course. How good it was many of us will never know as the course was flattened during WWII by tank maneuvers, and then three nines were built on the land where the original 18 lay, with almost no relation to the original routing. To make matters worse the old clubhouse has been left derelict in favour of a brown brick and blue plastic modern clubhouse at the centre of the three nines, which looks more like a local sports centre rather than a golf clubhouse. That said, while the course has little to do with the Princes of Open Championship fame, there are a number of decent holes, and even some very good ones. However, the whole course is let down by being is a bad condition with patchy greens and very patchy fairways (this was in August). Even playing the 5th hole on the Shore 9 - the historical highlight playing as it does to a green in the same location (but playing from a different angle) as the one where Sarazen won the Open - was a bit of a disappointment, largely due to the large mole hills all over the tee. However this did make for a good photo opportunity (see above) - remember in the very very old days, before wooden tees were used, golfers would tee their ball up on a small pile of sand. Maybe this is what it was like...! Overall, Princes is ok but nothing special - a club that once had history but which has sadly seen most of it wiped away.

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  12. Kummel = Yes (but strangely it is in an optic holder behind bar and not refrigerated)

    Walton Heath is a very traditional club. Reading the list of captains is akin to reading a who's who of the first half of the British 20th century. A number of prime ministers were members, including Churchill who once jokingly offered to "putt for the premiership" when arriving at the 18th green all square with another PM. Walton Heath also has the distinction of being the only British club to have had a reigning monarch as it's captain - The Duke of Windsor became captain, and then became King later that year.

    But it isn't just the club at Walton Heath that is something... both courses, the old and the new, were designed by the famous W. Herbert Fowler, with the old being his first ever design... and what a way to start! But first, let me briefly describe the experience from the beginning. The local train station and surrounding villages could still be in the 1920's. They could be the set of a film set in old England. You arrive at the clubhouse which is over a road from the course, and is surrounded by housing... and behind the first building you come to and in front of the clubhouse is a giant of a putting green. You then walk back down the entry road, cross a road, and you're at the first tee of the old course. It is a par 3 of some 230yards (which I birdied with a 3 iron to 4ft!) parallel to another road off to the right. You then cross this road and the rest of both courses are in front of you. When you first come through the hedgerow you're amazed by the beauty of the heath infront of you... and you half expect to see sheep grazing on the fairway. The course plays pretty much straight out for 8 holes, feeling in parts very similar to the kings course at Gleneagles, but as you approach the far end there is less heather and it feels more like parkland. Then as you start back it feels like Gleneagles again, until the last four holes which feel a bit like you're playing at Merion. The 15th and 16th play alongside each other but in different directions, with the 16th being a classic hole. Although it is a par 5, the second shot especially reminds me of the approach over the quarry to the 16th at Merion. It doesn't look all that similar, but there is something about it... Then you play a par 3 over a big valley/hole, followed by a classic and testing straight 18th hole (see the bottom photo above).

    Overall this was one of the best non-links courses I've played. I rate it better than Gleneagles (which was designed by Braid - the pro at WH for 40+ years!), and could quite happily play it for the rest of my days. Some courses are great but hard work, but WH's old course (as long as you stay out of the heather) is fun and entertaining to play, in much the same way that Pine Valley is. There are so many different ways to play these holes that I couldn't imagine ever getting bored. The only shame is that the clubhouse, although nice, isn't as spectacular as the course... but in a way the clubhouse being understated adds to the charm of the club. You wouldn't want Olympia Fields' mammoth clubhouse in England's green and pleasant land.

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  13. Kummel = Yes

    Panmure Golf Club is located in the small town of Barry, which has been swallowed up by Carnoustie expanding westwards, in Angus, Scotland. It is one of the clubs that originally helped purchase the Amateur Championship trophy, and is one of the oldest golf clubs in the world, dating back to 1845. It is a private club that plays over the Barry Links, and is sometimes referred to as Barry or Panmure Barry. Due to its location next to Carnoustie it is often overlooked by visitors, and with the number of members limited to 500 it is one of the most underplayed courses in Scotland. However with the new road into Carnoustie now passing within sight of the spectacular clubhouse, it won't remain a secret for too much longer! Although Panmure is a links course, it has some unusual features. The course is a mile or more from the sea, and many holes have beautiful trees which rarely come into play but create an unusual backdrop to the rolling links holes. The first and last three holes are fairly flat although still interesting, but the middle twelve holes are classic links holes. This is because the clubhouse had to be built near to a railway station, and the first and last three holes were needed to get to the land where the course was originally going to be built. It is also not a very long course at 6511 yards from the championship tees, but I think it proved to be the hardest final qualifying course for the 1999 Open Championship at Carnoustie. This is due to the well known barry rough that flanks every fairway, making accuracy from the tee essential.

    Panmure is famous for being the place where Ben Hogan practised away from the attention of the media, prior to his only Open Championship appearance at Carnoustie in 1953. Each day he would practise at Barry in the morning before his afternoon practise round at Carnoustie, and the day before the championship he spent the whole day at Panmure. He was invited to use the clubhouse, but since the club pro wasn't allowed in Hogan refused to go in also in case he offended the club pro. As a result he entered by the back entrance and ate with the steward in the kitchen before resuming practise each day! He also left his impression on the course - he thought the 6th hole to be one of the best anywhere and he suggested that a bunker at the front right of the green would improve the hole, and one was subsequently created, known to this day as hogan's bunker. Hogan spent much of his time hitting shots to the 17th green, and one day he asked that the green be cut shorter to better simulate the conditions at Carnoustie. The head greenkeeper handed him a mower, and Hogan cut the grass himself, even cleaning the mower before returning it! Panmure also has one of the finest clubhouses in Scotland, modelled spiritually on the Royal Calcutta Golf Club. The main lounge and dining room are amongst the nicest I've seen anywhere. Panmure is again a final qualifying course for the 2007 Open Championship at Carnoustie.

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  14. Kummel = No

    Pinehurst No.2 is Donald Ross's masterpiece. It is in the middle of nowhere in North Carolina, surrounded by a huge community of golf courses in a town that survives completely on golf tourism, yet it contains the greatest green complexes I have ever seen. I'm not sure what dragged Ross all the way out here but I'm glad he came! The greens were hard clay with a sand covering, between the course opening in 1907 and the 1930's, as Ross thought that the only types of grass that could survive the North Carolina summer weren't high enough quality for greens. The fact that the course became famous despite this is a testament to how good the layout is.

    My round here consisted of a very bad outward 9 and a very good inward 9. Overall I would say that the back 9 is easier, but the finish is excellent. When I played it the fairways were pretty huge and it was all about the short game, although it would be very different when set up for the US Open. The greens are the defining feature of Pinehurst. They are all upturned bowls that shrug the ball off... there is one sensible place to play to on every green, and that is the centre! This is more difficult if you're in the trees from the tee... but still possible! On the 18th... "I'm hitting it through that gap.", "What gap?" says the caddy... "That gap" says I. Then a 3-iron punch through the rough, bounces the corner of the bunker, and runs up to 15ft. Awesome.

    Overall this is a unique course with great greens and a real golden era feel to it. The only downside is that it is part of a resort rather than a private club, which leads to a bit of a golf tourist feel, but this is easily eclipsed by the quality of the course.

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  15. Kummel = No

    The history of Peachtree Golf Club is largely centred on the great Bobby Jones. Having recently built Augusta National, Jones decided to build a golf course in Atlanta itself in order to cater for his friends that weren't inclined to make the long trip to the national. The course was at one point intented to host what became the Masters, but due to its early success it stayed at Augusta, and the rest is history.

    The course itself is beautiful and the routing is inspired, playing over rolling hills and looking as if this ground was always destined to become a golf course. It was designed by Robert Trent Jones in 1947, and is generally considered to be one of the works that made his name. There are very few fairway bunkers (off the top of my head I can only think of the 1st and the 18th, although there were one or two others), and the greens are very large with huge contours. A fair number of the greens are multi-tiered and, until they shrunk it, the 10th green was the largest in America. Strangely the 11th tee was at this time also the biggest tee in America!

    Overall, Peachtree is a magical place, made all the more so by its large role in the life of the world's greatest golfer, Bobby Jones. The clubhouse is very traditional and southern, and the club is very much a members club. The only thing that isn't perfect is the driving range - it is very narrow, and the right side of the approach to the 9th green tends to be covered in range balls! If you are going to miss this green, miss it left, or else you might never see your ball again!

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