1. Kummel = Yes

    Woking Golf Club - one of the three W's along with Worplesdon and West Hill - is a beautiful little English club to the west of London. It is similar to Worplesdon in that it has a very understated yet classy clubhouse, but the course is much more heathland compared to Worplesdon's Heathland/Parkland mix. Woking is a reasonably short course (a 'club course', as I call it), yet it makes good use of the undulating terrain and there are many holes which appear easy yet aren't! While I'm sure that professionals would tear it apart, it would be very interesting to watch them play a round at Woking with a set of hickories...

    One particularly interesting hole is the 14th, which finishes right in front of the clubhouse. Despite being a par 5, it is reminiscint of the 18th on the Rosemount course at Blairgowrie, only with the green much closer to the clubhouse. In fact, while we had our early morning coffee someone mentioned that the clubhouse is in fact in bounds (but the roof is now out of bounds after someone went up there to play a shot!). No sooner had they said this, a ball ran through the green, onto the covered patio area and the player had to play it from next to us back onto the green. The only shame is that this is the 14th hole - the course might well be improved if the 14th was made the 18th, and the 15th was made the 1st!

    Anyway, at the end of the day Woking is a great old fashioned English club with a fine course and a steady supply of Kummel. What more could you want?

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  2. Kummel = No

    The Country Club of Virginia is a great club with three courses, located in Richmond, Virginia. The best course, situated at their out of town clubhouse, is the James River course - a two-time host to the United States Amateur - and thanks go to the Itinerant Golfer for hosting me. The course was originally a Flynn course, the leftovers of two courses he was asked to design before the club decided to only build 18 holes (9 of one design and 9 of the other). Unfortunately, Rees Jones got his paws on the course a few years ago and made some changes.

    The first 9 play over fairly flatish land and are good without being great. On the par 3 4th hole there is an RJ artificial stream, plus rocks on the bank from the green to the lake, which look a bit suspect. The back 9 are great holes which use the terrain well, with a good combination of short and long holes. Overall, CCofV is a welcoming and friendly place to play a round of golf on a course that is in very good condition with faster greens even than at NGLA. One wonders if it wouldn't have been even better had the original design been retained...

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  3. Kummel = No

    Wow. The London Golfer has a new favourite golf course, even accounting for the fact that they do not serve Kummel. The National Golf Links of America, near Southampton at the eastern end of Long Island, is one of the world's greatest courses and has been regarded as such since its creation a century ago by Charles Blair Macdonald.

    The course is very strategic... on almost every hole there are multiple options from the tee ranging from a heroic carry to a safe bail out. Every hole is memorable and every hole makes you think. There are quite a few quirky features and a number of blind shots, meaning that all golfers probably fall into the category of either loving Shinnecock (the game should be hard but fair, dammit!) or loving the National (life isn't fair, deal with it!). I definitely fall into the latter category.

    C.B. Macdonald designed the course in the same way he and Seth Raynor designed all of their courses - using template holes that they borrowed from the finest courses of the old world. On the National there is a redan, a sahara, a short, a long, an eden, an alps, a punchbowl, a leven, a road hole and a bottle hole to name but a few. Each of these holes were designed around the concepts that made the originals great, but adapted for the local land and often improved upon. I won't go into the details of any particular holes, as I'm not sure I could pick which ones were the best given that every hole was great. Personal highlights in terms of how I played would be the 16th (Driver, 4 iron and 7ft putt for a birdie) and the Redan 4th (4 iron into the wind, missed a hole in one by inches then just missed the 8ft putt for birdie). Generally I played pretty well, which allowed me to relax and just enjoy the course.

    One of the things that makes the National so much fun to play is that it isn't overly long, there is always a safe option from the tee (although this leads to a much harder second shot), and the scenery is spectacular as you walk around a pristine course on a hillside overlooking the Peconic Bay. There surely can be no greater feeling in golf than walking around the national on a sunny and warm day with a cool, fresh wind blowing.

    Final mention should go to the club and the famous windmill. The club is a very traditional golf club in the style of the great clubs of the British Isles. The clubhouse is beautiful and imposing, the inside being a series of wood panelled dining rooms and drinking rooms with possibly the finest views in golf. The library has many old golf books and photos and you really could spend a whole day just sitting there and reading. The dining room serves a famous lobster luncheon that it is often claimed is the greatest in golf.

    All in all, in my opinion the National stands as the perfect American golf club, a bridging point between the links of the UK and the parkland courses of the United States, and a transplant of the best old world hole strategies which served as a blueprint for the following thirty years of American golf course architecture.

    And finally, the windmill... apparently there used to be a water tower there, but one of the members kept mentioning to CBM that the club should build a windmill there as it would look much better on the skyline. One day the member turned up to find the windmill had been built and he was understandably pleased to have left his mark on such a great golf course. However, he wasn't so happy when he opened his locker and found a bill for the $20,000 cost of the windmill and a note from CBM saying simply "enjoy your windmill"! Charles Blair Macdonald sounds like a bit of a legend...

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  4. Kummel = Yes

    In 2007 the Atlanta area endured almost a month with 90+ temperatures and almost no rain. Unfortunately this damaged the bentgrass greens at East Lake, requiring them to be painted in places prior to the Tour Championship. After this minor disaster, the decision was made to dig up and relay all 18 greens at East Lake with a new, more durable type of bermuda. The course was closed from around March until the Tour Championship in September, but it appears to have been worth it as the greens at East Lake are now very, very good. They are quite firm, very fast and much more difficult to hold than previously. The 7th green has been moved 50 yards back up the hill and the 17th green has been raised and moved nearer the lake. Additionally some new bunkers have been added to toughen the course, some new tees have been added (most noticeably at the 13th and 15th) and the 17th fairway has been moved closer to the lake.

    Whilst I am generally not a fan of tinkering with a golf course, I feel that East Lake is an exception since the original design has essentially been lost anyway other than the routing, and the new design is effectively a new tournament course built for that purpose. There isn't really anything to protect but there is, however, a great new golf course (on an historic site that was almost lost forever) which is gradually being tweaked and improved.

    Also of note is that the clubhouse has been extended to the East. There is now a beautiful ballroom with windows looking out over the lake, plus the bar also now has better views and is about three times as big as the old one. The overall appearance from the outside is fantastic and you really can't tell that part of the building is new.

    Another thing I generally don't approve of is TVs in golf club bars. However, after our round we saw the Falcons catch a kickoff, throw a 40 yard play and then kick a 48 yard field goal, all within 11 seconds of full time to come from behind and beat the Bears. In this situation I could definitely make an exception... a perfect afternoon in Atlanta!

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  5. Kummel = Yes

    The London Golfer hasn't been playing much golf recently due to moving house. While there is one top 20 US course to look forward to playing for the first time in the next few months, and two top 100 US courses as well, there really isn't a whole lot else to do right now except watch the Europeans kick America's ass in the Ryder Cup. With this in mind, kummel in hand and clubs in tow, I have found the best driving range in London on the roof of my new house. Masters chairs set up on one side of the roof, kummel and ice on the other, a bucket of soft practice balls off to one side and a rubber golf tee. In one direction you can hit north into Hyde Park over a roof, but to the south you have a much nicer view blasting a hickory mid-iron out over Knightsbridge/Belgravia and hoping you don't hit a Bentley or Rolls Royce with a single digit middle eastern number plate. Look out for some good US updates soon, but in the meantime just relax and enjoy the view.

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  6. Kummel = Yes

    The first thing you notice about Moor Park Golf Club is the imposing Paladian mansion that serves as the clubhouse. Even compared to other mansions in a similar style near London this one is huge, with a very ornate interior. The High Course, designed in 1923 by Harry Colt, is one of two courses on the property - the other being the west course. The club, with grass tennis courts and beautiful putting green, initially feels very grand - until you venture to the changing rooms, or walk past one of the signs that shows all of the corporate events on that day. While there still is a members club at Moor Park, the dominant feel of the place is of a corporate venue... and I have to admit some guilt as I was also there on a corporate golf day!

    The High Course itself is fun to play, but as the club website states Colt designed a course to blend into the grounds of this once grand estate. There are some good holes, some great holes, and some average holes... but almost every hole has the feel of a typical British parkland course. As I have mentioned before when talking about other clubs, I mean literally that this is a park with some tees, greens and bunkers added. However, if they worked on the conditioning of the course, grew the rough up a little, renovated the bunkers and removed some of the awful bunkers that have clearly been added in more recent times by someone with a JCB, then the course would look and feel a lot better. This is especially true since a lot of the interest here is in the elevantion changes which add something on almost every hole... but no matter how much they improve it, the review would be the same I suspect: a middle of the road course with good views over London and a spectacular clubhouse. Given the number of high quality clubs within 50 miles of the capital, Moor Park isn't in my opinion somewhere to play more than once.

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  7. Kummel = Yes

    Burhill Golf Club is located near Walton on Thames, a short distance to the west of London. It is an old, traditional English parkland club with two courses - the 'old course' built in 1907 by Willie Park at about 6,400yards, and the more recent (and less interesting) championship length 'new course'.

    The first two things that struck me about Burhill were a) the links style rough to be found well off the fairways (which I really like and I think frames the holes well) and b) the impressive clubhouse building with its high ceiling bars. Plus of course it has Kummel - top club! Both the rough and the Kummel were visited frequently.

    The old course here has a number of changes in elevation, but much of the course is relatively flat - certainly when compared with some of the other courses in the area. Yet even the flattest of holes are beautifully designed... the style of the greens, the shape of the fairways and the look of the bunkers, coupled with the wispy long rough, is enough to convince you that it's still the 1930s. There are a number of bunkers now not a threat to the modern golfer, but whereas many clubs have removed these the ones left at Burhill serve to frame the holes beautifully. The greens were in excellent condition and many contain tiers or strong internal contours - on the very first hole for example there is a long thin green with the back half a bold 3 feet above the front, and mown grass for a distance at the sides and back to help carry the errant ball away from the putting surface. This theme of interesting putting surfaces continues throughout the round and is one of the subtle points of Burhill that in my mind makes it stand out above most of the British parkland courses that I have played. I suppose that it could be claimed that Burhill is heathland, but there is little if no heather, and while the ground does have the drier feel of a heathland, the styling is definitely parkland. In fact if you removed the long rough it would almost look American, and I fear they might do this as a member commented that they didn't like losing their balls in it! If Burhill does cut down this grass (which isn't particularly thick or in play) I feel it would seriously diminish the enjoyment of the course... except maybe for the hacker!

    Overall the old course at Burhill is a classy inland English club course which, while obviously not in the category of the Sunningdales and Walton Heaths of this world, is well worth a trip if you're visiting the capital. Additionally, it is interesting to note that Burhill Golf Club is a historical place of note for more than simply the golf course. It was in this clubhouse (requisitioned by the Ministry of Aircraft Production during the Second World War) that Barnes Wallis created his famous 'Bouncing Bomb' which was used in the 'Dambuster' raids on Nazi Germany by Guy Gibson and 617 squadron!

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  8. Kummel = Yes

    Malden Golf Club (previously called Raynes Park Golf Club and founded in 1893) is another small and traditional British parkland course in the suburbs of London. The terrain is fairly flat on the front nine, and the back nine plays on a large gently sloping hill. While this is not generally ideal for exicting golf, there are a number of fine holes which use typically old fashioned parkland bunkers to good strategic effect. There is a certain charm to a course like this - where on some holes you can still see the architectual merit of bunkers which are now far too close to the tee to cause any concern, yet haven't been moved. It all adds to an old fashioned charm which I like. Malden would be a great course to play with hickory clubs for this very reason! The clubhouse is nice and has a great putting green between it and the 1st tee, surrounded by a hedge. Perfect for a post-round putting competition with a glass of Kummel at stake...

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  9. Kummel = Yes

    Bruntsfield Links is one of the oldest clubs in the world (their website says the 4th oldest), having been founded in 1761, although along with the Honourable Company (Muirfield) and others they previously played at a number of locations including Musselburgh, before moving to the present site in 1898. The course was laid out by Willie Park Jnr, then renovated by Alistair McKenzie in 1922/1923 and by Hawtree in 1972/1974. The course plays over rolling terrain to the West of Edinburgh, and is surrounded by some beautiful old houses. While a tree-lined course, the trees are mainly deciduous and not particularly tall, which adds to the small old British parkland course feel. There are plenty of great holes, with the par 4 9th to a raised green being my favourite (see photo). The clubhouse is old and traditional with a beautiful high-ceiling dining room and views downhill over the course to the Firth of Forth beyond. While I'm not a huge fan of this sort of 'real' parkland golf course (literally golf in a park!) it is a nice historical old club and a fun course to play. It should also be noted that the course is located right next to the even older Royal Burgess Golfing Society - perfect if you want to play 36 holes in a day!

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