1. Kummel = Yes

    Hankley Common GC, just south of London, was a bit of a surprise. In an area where so often one thinks of Sunningdale, Walton Heath, Worplesdon and so forth, I was expecting it to be decent... however, while I had also heard positive noises from various people, I was blown away by how good the course here was.

    Hankley was opened for play in 1897 as a nine hole course, before eventually being lengthened to a full 18 by James Braid in 1922. It is a classic old course with possibly the narrowest fairways I've seen anywhere outside the US Open! The greens are interesting (though not spectacular), the bunkering is excellent and the general condition of the course was superb. Despite the reasonable abundance of trees, they are normally far enough away from the playing corridors to not overly interfere with play. The real defense is the bright purple heather which lines each of the narrow fairways and which is very hard to recover from (though not impossible!).

    ...but the real delight of Hankley is the feeling of spaciousness. The property is huge, and if it wasn't a site of special scientific interest the club could build another couple of golf courses if it so wished. The result is that the course meanders across a huge heath/common, and you completely forget just how close to London you actually are. The sensible felling of trees in recent years has only served to open up more such views and increase the pleasure of playing here.

    It would be unfair to attribute too much of my enjoyment of the course to the setting, as this would be to forget just how good the course is. From the 1st, through the famous par 3 7th (middle photo), to the excellent finishing hole, Hankley Common is a wonderful golf course.

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  2. Kummel = No

    The Old Links at Musselburgh is a historic location in the golfing world, with perhaps the strongest claim to being the oldest layout in existence. This course held the Open Championship six times in the 1800's, and was (at one time) the home course to the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers (now at Muirfield), Royal Burgess GS, Royal Musselburgh GC and Bruntsfield Links GS. Unlike many of the other links courses of its day, Musselburgh has changed very little. While Leith faded away, and St Andrews expanded to 18 holes, Musselburgh remained a 9 hole course, as it still is today. It costs 12 pounds for a round, and is contained largely within a horse-racing track on the outskirts of Edinburgh. This course feels as though it was forgotten by time, and certainly provides a feeling of what golf must have been like so many years ago.

    The course itself begins with the Home hole, a par 3 towards the racing grandstand that used to be the 9th. This requires a short iron to a tight green, played over the race-course railings immediately in front of the tee. From here the course heads east, with the race-track providing a large bail-out area to the right of the next two holes.

    The fourth is probably the best hole. This is a long par four (440-ish?) requiring a long carry over the raised corner of the race-track, before a long iron is played to the dog-leg right green, tucked away in a corner of the property in front of an old pub. From here the course turns back towards the starters hut, and a series of solid-if-not-spectacular holes return the golfer to his or her waiting pint.

    Musselburgh is short by today's standards, and the condition of the course feels as though the golfer might have stepped back in time, but this is part of its charm. I would look forward to my next visit and recommend that this course should be experienced by all serious golfers on a trip to Scotland. This is golf the way it was supposed to be played.

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  3. Kummel = No, but many members seem to love it!

    The Country Club in Brookline, near Boston, is quite possibly one of the finest clubs I have visited anywhere. It was here in 1913 that Francis Ouimet, a twenty year old amateur and former caddie who lived in a very modest house on the edge of the golf course, played the greatest game ever played to beat two giants of the English game and win the US Open in a playoff, and capture the imagination of the American public in the process. Ouimet went on to become the first American captain of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews and is as fine an example of an amateur golfer as has ever existed. To walk around the clubhouse and the grounds at The Country Club is to walk in the footsteps of history and it is a history that they have preserved and maintained with pride.

    The clubhouse is a beautiful wooden building that feels as though it might be a home from the 1800s. Wooden floors mix with elegant furnishings and a very gentle air conditioning system to create the perfect space for relaxed lunches on the patio or formal dinners in the dining room. The clubhouse is, however, just one of a number of buildings which are built around a lawn, designed in the style of a village green. At one end is the mens locker room, which I would venture to say is the best locker room I've seen anywhere. Old fashioned lockers, great showers, and a brilliant mens bar area at one end which really could be a bar in Boston in the 1930s. The bar's walls are brick but painted in a golfing green, there are old photos and memorabilia in appropriate places, and there is a great wooden bar in one corner - staffed for many years now by 'Fernando' who has given his name to the signature drink of the club. I'm not sure what was in it, but it tasted great, and Fernando even made a Kummel infused version which tasted surprisingly good! The place feels low key yet classic, and one can quite imagine Bobby Jones standing at the bar with drink in hand, mulling a round at one of the greatest courses in America.

    ...And on to the course. The property at Brookline is a perfect canvas for a golf course. Rolling hills, beautiful rock outcrops, skating ponds, grand old trees and fescue rough combine to make a course that is as pleasing on the eye as it is interesting. On the 18 hole members' course every hole is strategic, memorable and fits perfectly into a meandering and delightful routing. The most incredible thing is that for tournaments they now take three holes from the Primrose Nine (a nine hole course that most young members learn to play golf on) to replace 3 holes on the members' 18... and the three holes which are lost are all holes which another course would die to have! The 9th is a classic uphill par 4, the 10th (with its tee recently moved away from the clubhouse) is a brilliant short par 4 with an alps green, and the 12th is an unusual but quaint downhill par 3 to a very small green. Not many courses get rid of holes of this caliber! Before I played the main course I played the loop of three on the Primrose 9 to ensure I had played the full composite course. Those holes are tough! In fact they are actually four holes, but the first hole (which is played as the 11th in the composite course) is a long par 4 where you play over the green to the par 3 2nd green, 100 yards further on and over a pond. This is then followed by a huge par 4 up a very steep hill, and then a long downhill par 4 with a lake in play off the tee. If the kids at TCC grow up playing these, they must be bloody good!!

    Other great holes on the course include the 3rd and 11th (both long and gentle doglegs right with enjoyable twisting fairways), the par 3 7th with one of the oldest greens on the course (3 tiered in the style of the 11th at National Golf Links, and angled to be originally played to from a tee 90 degrees to the right), the par 5 14th hole with its rolling fairway and carry over fescue, and the great finish 16, 17, 18. It is hard to play these holes and not think of the history that has unfolded here. From Ouimet, holing a decisive birdie putt against his opponent's bogey in the playoff (on the hole he grew up next to, the 17th), through to Justin Leonard's famous putt on the same hole to sink the European Ryder Cup team in 1999, these holes have witnessed some of the greatest moments in the game and to walk them is to walk in the footsteps of the greats.

    The Country Club is probably my favourite club in America, with the course being in my top 5 alongside NGLA, Merion, Pine Valley and Augusta. Merion is just about tied as the best club, as they both have a great feeling as a members' club, in addition to having the history and great course which NGLA, PV and Augusta undoubtedly have... but I think that The Country Club just steals it as everything here is done with an elegance which just isn't matched elsewhere. The members were incredibly kind to us, went out for a 4 hole, 3 club, alternate hitting challenge with us after a very late and enjoyable lunch, then brought their wives to dinner and really made us feel welcome. They even gave us an English style breakfast, which was a nice touch. As we left TCC, said goodbye to 'woody' - the wooden head and shoulders of a security guard at the front gate - I was very glad to have had the opportunity to add this place to my list of favourites.

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  4. Kummel = No

    Oakland Hills Country Club, just north of Detroit, has held many major championships in its time, in addition to hosting a memorable European Ryder Cup victory. It is one of the great championship courses of the United States, with an enviable history, and was a delight to visit. My first thought on arrival was how big the clubhouse is... we started at one end and walked the length from the pro shop to the very nice upstairs mens grill. It's apparently one of the largest wooden structures in the state (or maybe the country?), and has a very impossing and famous frontage to the golf course.

    The club has seen the greats of the game walk its fairways and the course has been lengthened over the years, with bunkers added around the driving zone, to continue to keep the course up to scratch for tournament play. The result is a very enjoyable but tough golf course... the routing is good and uses the terrain to great effect, especially on holes such as the short uphill 6th and the great par 4 11th.

    It is actually quite scorable if you can keep the ball in play off the tee, although the greens are large and there are clearly many nasty pin positions they could give you. When we played, the members had asked for the last 3 holes to have their USPGA Sunday positions and even at the standard day in day out green speed they proved very tough.

    The main problem I faced during the round was that the first fairway I hit was the 16th! However, I nailed one on that hole, hit the green to 25ft from the right front edge pin position, and two putted for par. We then went out and played the back 9 a second time (after a very nice drink and lunch with some members, and a short thunderstorm), and I again played the 16th perfectly while struggling elsewhere. Must just be an easy hole!

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  5. Kummel = No

    The Inverness Club, in Toledo, Ohio, has been the venue of a number of major championships. Greg Norman in particular narrowly lost here twice, and Bobby Jones played his first US Open here in 1920. The clubhouse and dormy house both are filled with historic photos and memorabilia and are very nice places to spend two nights and socialise, as I did on this trip. One of their most interesting items is a cathedral chime clock that was presented to the club by the professionals who played in the 1920 Open. Back then, the US Open was played after the British Open, and the 1920 British Open at Deal was the site of the famous story of Walter Hagen being thrown out of the clubhouse for being a professional. Hagen then came back and set up a lunch table outside the members' entrance, and sent his driver into the clubhouse to buy champagne. At the US Open a month later, Inverness became the first club to grant equal rights to the professionals, and so Hagen gathered together donations and bought the clock for the club. The inscription on the clock reads:

    God measures men by what they are
    Not by what they in wealth possess
    This vibrant message chimes afar
    The voice of Inverness

    The Inverness Club really does have a great history and their members are very proud of it. While I was there I stayed in their house on the grounds, had breakfast, lunch and dinner with a great bunch of members, and even went out after our game for a 12 man, 4 team, 5 hole scramble, with only hickory clubs to be used on the 18th hole. Great fun and exactly the way a club should be.

    The course at Inverness is a classic Donald Ross course, routed over interesting land and with very small greens. Classics include the bunkerless par 4 7th hole, and the short par 4 18th hole - which at 354 yards is one of the shortest finishing par 4s in major championship history (note, I'm informed that the shortest is Llanerch CC near Philadelphia, which held the USPGA in 1958 and whose 18th is just 296 yards!). The course is as historic as the clubhouse, with features such as 'Hinkle's tree'... a tree that was planted between the 1st and 2nd rounds of the 1979 US Open to stop Lon Hinkle from playing down the 17th fairway, and thus cutting the corner of the long dogleg par 5 8th hole.

    The only flaws in the course at Inverness are the 3rd, 5th and 6th holes holes which were created by Fazio when he extended the golf course a number of years ago. The 5th and 6th fit in well with the course, but the par 3 3rd hole plays over a lake and looks a little out of place. This is made worse by its location parallel to the 12th - an excellent and classic Ross par 3. The other 15 holes, however, are excellent - the Inverness Club is a classic and historic course which is well worth a trip to visit.

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  6. Kummel = No

    Flossmoor Country Club, just south of Chicago, has in days gone by been host to both the PGA Championship and the US Amateur (the latter counted both Jones and Ouimet as participants). The present clubhouse is the third incarnation (the first two burnt down), and was built in the centre of the course in 1914 - the previous two clubhouses had been just north of the present 4th tee. Flossmoor has recently been renovated and just like Olympia Fields' South Course, the most noticeable change at Flossmoor has been the bunkering. As at OFCC, the bunkers had become round, isolated and featureless, whereas post-renovation they look beautiful and have allowed the course to once again regain its look as an historic classic course.

    Another feature of the renovation was large scale tree removal, which has opened up views across the course which had previously been lost. Flossmoor is still essentially a tree-lined course, but whereas before they were thick and close to the line of play, they are now largely away from the playing corridors and the course benefits as a result. One hole, however, where the trees are in fact in play is the par four 13th hole, where a large tree in the middle of the fairway gives you much pause for thought - an excellent hole. Other great holes include the short par four 4th hole and the finishing four holes which are particularly excellent. Overall, Flossmoor is a great and historic American club with a very welcoming and proud membership. They are definitely on the right track in bringing their course back into its prime... if only it didn't have a cart path it would look even better!

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  7. Kummel = No

    The South Course at Olympia Fields has always been the second course here, ever since it was created by piecing together various holes from the club's three courses that lay south of the imposing clubhouse (the rest of these holes were sold off and built upon). Loved by the membership for its undulating land and interesting holes, the South Course had over time lost many of its original features, including some of its greens, which had tended to become circular and generic. However, in the last few years the course has been renovated by Steve Smyers and his design partner Patrick Andrews, who together returned the greens to their original sizes (including a number with very cool square fronts) and removed trees. Additionally, the most noticeable change has been the bunkers, which have been altered from their previous generic shapes into unusual beasts with distinctive mounding around them.

    While the changes here have been controversial (especially the bunkers), I have to say that I love the course. In fact, I much prefer the new South Course to the North Course. Generally, the holes are more strategic, the topography is more interesting, the greens are more undulating and overall the course is more memorable and charming. Particular highlights include the par 4 sixth (knoll) hole (on which I am putting above), and the 18th hole which is an excellent par 5 (see top photo). The only weak point of the course are the two holes furthest from the clubhouse, which are out of character compared to the rest of the course because they have no trees. In golf architecture the prevailing view has become that the removal of trees is normally a positive thing. This is, however, a case where the planting of trees would actually improve these holes!

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  8. Kummel = No

    For the second time in four years my travels have taken me to Chicago and the Olympia Fields Country Club. This is just a small update to reiterate that they still do not have Kummel, but to add that I have left a couple of bottles there. The north course is a challenging historic course in good condition, and it was very enjoyable to again make its acquaintance.

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