There was an advertisement that got played a lot during the Presidents Cup matches that pointed to the unchanging size of basketball courts, tennis courts, hockey rinks, etc., but golf courses were all different. Whether golf would be any fun if every course had to be identical is the subject of another post, but I don’t like the courses I play on to be too different. These are the things I like in a golf course.
Fairways. I like to have a chance to hit the fairway and not be penalized too much if I miss. The course I play on most is pretty wide open off the tee, but it’s long from the whites, so you’re going to be hitting driver a lot and the extra space is a nice compensation. A shorter course I play on is tree-lined, and I don’t need a driver to play that one. A third course is carved out of the woods, and if you miss the fairway it’s lost ball. I usually crack at the pressure of having to hit it straight at about the 14h hole.
Fairways. Flat fairways the whole time get kind of boring, so a few uneven lies are fun because I know how to hit off them. As far as the playing surface goes, the tighter, the better. I don’t mind what condition the grass is in, as long as it gets mowed so I don’t think I hit it dead center and wound up in rough.
Greens. I like fast greens. That way I can just ease the ball toward the hole. On slower greens, I have to hit the ball harder than I like, and my stroke gets thrown off track. Also, fast greens tend to be true greens. The lowest rounds of my life have all been shot on the same course, and I believe it is because of the condition of the greens let me sink lots of putts that I wouldn’t elsewhere. I like greens that are open in front, with good grass, so I can run the ball on if I need to.
Hazards. Bunkers don’t bother me. I know how to get out of a greenside bunker, and I don’t hit into them very often, anyway. I own the fairway bunker shot. Water is OK within reason. If you spend all day avoiding water off the tee or have to hit more than one heroic shot over water to get to a green, that’s too much.
Strategy. I like a course that lets me hit driver and get rewarded for it, or hit a shorter club and still have a good chance to score well. I like a course that lets you pick several ways to the hole instead of forcing just one solution. I like a course that encourages you to play your best instead of playing to avoid your worst.
Layout. I like a course that makes it clear where the next tee is and doesn’t put the tees in places so that if you walk off the 6th green you don’t find yourself on the 15th tee the first time you play it. It’s nice if some of the holes are close together so you can check the pin position of upcoming holes as you walk by. A course should be nice to look at, too. The beautiful surroundings we play in is one of the reasons I like the game.
Unusual shots. There should be one tee shot where if you do something different, like loft a shorter club over trees to cut off a dogleg, you can steal a stroke. I like playing a course where I have to rehearse a special shot during my warm-up because I’m going to use it on the 8th hole, and this is the only course on which I need this shot.
Improvement. I like a course that requires you to get better at certain shots to shoot a better score, and rewards you once you learn how to hit them well, like an 80-yard pitch, or a 2-hybrid from the fairway, or working the ball off the tee.
There isn’t one course I play on that has all of this, but the combination of courses I play do. If I missed anything, let me know.
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