Palmetto GC, Aiken. Herbert Leeds (1892) with changes by Alister MacKenzie (1932). The number of famous hands this remarkable course has had on it is something. Leeds laid out the course’s 18 holes but MacKenzie stopped by while working on Augusta National and converted the sand greens to grass and built bunkers. Donald Ross is said to have done work here sometimes in the interim and lately both Tom Doak and Gil Hanse have done restoration work. Sometimes, such a course becomes a mishmash of too many different things, but Palmetto is not that—the overriding feeling is very much MacKenzie … Continue reading Palmetto

The Frog

The Frog at the Georgian, Villa Rica, GA. Tom Fazio, 1998. Far enough west of Atlanta that it doesn’t seem to get as much press as other courses, this is a typically solid Fazio layout with more local character and quirk than I generally expect from him. I liked the long par 3 8th where you can try to bounce one in from the slope front right, but you have to beware of the lake just long left of the green, especially when the grass is dormant and running fast. The back nine has a good mix of longer and … Continue reading The Frog

Rancho Park

Rancho Park GC, Los Angeles. William P. Bell and William H. Johnson, 1949. Maybe the best candidate for a restoration I’ve seen. The best news is that relatively little actually needs to be done here. Some trees should go and others could use a trim to open the course up and help turf growth, a few greens look to have shrunk over the years, and there are a few bunkers that could use some work. But otherwise, this course wins on its bones and they’ve thankfully not really done much to muck that up. The routing uses the hills and … Continue reading Rancho Park

GC at Johnson Ranch

The Golf Club at Johnson Ranch, Queen Creek. Kenny Watkins, 1997. This club has switched nines several times, so I’m not sure which configuration is current just now. Last I knew they were starting players on the better nine, which plays up, around, then down the mountain, offering a couple nice holes like the first, fifth, and sixth, as well as a few inevitably awkward ones like the fourth. But all of that is preferable to the back nine, which is simply a featureless flat march between homes. Arizona 9th Decile [2017] Continue reading GC at Johnson Ranch

Tucson National

Omni Tucson National Resort, Tucson. Sonoran Course by Tom Lehman, 2005. Lehman reworked the nine holes that were the non-tournament holes here and added nine more (plus made a few tweaks to the tournament course) to give the resort two 18-hole courses. The totally new holes on the far side of the wash are definitely the best of the bunch. The reworked old holes mostly run up and down some steep hills and some of them work and some don’t and a couple really have homes too close, but probably none of that is Lehman’s fault. As best I can … Continue reading Tucson National

Mountain Shadows

Mountain Shadows, Paradise Valley. Forrest Richardson, 2017. Richardson entirely redeveloped the 1961 original course that his mentor Arthur Jack Snyder had built here, but which had fallen into disrepair, as part of a revitalization of the resort as a whole. The new course offers 18 par-3 holes plus a par-2 putting wager hole following the 17th. There are flip wedge holes and a Biarritz that stretches to nearly 200 yards, waterfalls, a dell hole, and great views. It seems like just the model that should work for both casual golfers who are at the resort with some time to kill … Continue reading Mountain Shadows

Trump National

Trump National GC Los Angeles, Rancho Palos Verdes. Pete & Perry Dye, 1999. Trump’s waterfalls here were removed a few years ago as, I believe, a water-saving measure. I don’t think they’re missed. This was a tough spot to put a course—The Donald likes to compare it to Pebble Beach, but Pebble is built on a comparatively gentle hillside above severe cliffs. Trump LA is basically just built on a cliff. This was basically the knock on the course I had heard before playing—that to even squeeze a course on to the site required building such narrow and terraced holes … Continue reading Trump National

Torrey Pines

Torrey Pines GC, La Jolla. North Course by William F. Bell (1957) with revisions by Tom Weiskopf (2016). Though it’s sort of considered the little sister course to the South, there are actually a few more holes here that interact with the cliffs and some of the topography is more interesting. And while it’s clearly the easier of the two courses, for your average player the challenge here—thick rough, small greens—is all you want. I’ve only seen the renovations on TV but they look great—freshening the course and bunkers, but retaining the feel of the place. To a great extent, … Continue reading Torrey Pines

Soule Park

Soule Park GC, Ojai. Gil Hanse and Jim Wagner, 2005. I think it was Billy Bell Jr. who built the first course on this site in the 1960s, but the course that was here essentially all washed away a little over a decade ago. I played with a local and his assessment was the course that Hanse built here may roughly share the corridors of the old holes, but otherwise the entire feel of the course is different. This is a wonderful site—hilly but walkable, peaceful (but for the donkey that lives off the 12th fairway), and set in the … Continue reading Soule Park

Shadow Ridge

Shadow Ridge GC, Palm Desert. Nick Faldo with Lee Schmidt and Brian Curley, 2000. The primary design theme here is big flashy bunkers, supposedly in the Australian sandbelt style, though that doesn’t totally jibe with the views. The course is really defended at the greens, not just with the sand but because most greens are perched with tricky runoffs to chipping areas. Here it is a good set of option-filled short par fours that make the course. Three, maybe even four, are actually reachable but play differently and present a host of different options in terms of how to attack—the … Continue reading Shadow Ridge