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skilled-golfUnlike Mr. Gorman, I will not try to convince you that I know anything about the intricacies of golf course design. I am not an expert on agronomy, I know nothing about water tables and I only passed geometry in high school because the guy next to me wrote big and angled his paper in a manner that made it easy to see with peripheral vision.

So if Tommy “Trent Jones” Gorman tries to impress you with architectural babble, know that he was on the phone with his architect buddies, picking their brains, because believe me, he has no more knowledge about what goes into building a golf course than I do. So now that we’ve set the groundwork and you understand that we have no idea what we’re talking about (gee what a revelation), our topic of discussion this month is “What makes a good (great?) golf course?”

Unlike Gorman, who has probably run up his phone bill, calling up Ron Garl, Tom Fazio or Rees Jones for advice, I will attempt to convey what I look for and prefer in a golf course. Obviously it depends on where the course is built. If it abuts the ocean I want my course to be what it is supposed to be, a links course, with little in the way of trees, but with plenty of strategically placed bunkers that will gobble up wayward shots but will ignore well placed ones.

The greens need to be firm but large and with different levels and enough reasonable places to cut cups as to give each hole multiple looks and thus make the player think each time they attack it. Overall I love greens that have different levels but not those that look like somebody buried a herd of elephants there. Moguls belong on ski slopes, not greens. I am also not a big proponent of false fronts and sides (see Pinehurst #2). I believe that if you can hit your ball onto the green, with proper spin, it should stay there and not roll into the next county. For most of us hitting the green is an accomplishment, one that should be rewarded.

I believe that all courses should provide multiple tee boxes to accommodate players of all levels. This makes the game as enjoyable for the person who can’t hit their driver more than 170 yards as is does for the Bubba Watsons of the world. I hate courses that require you to ride (not by the rules of the club but by the geography). My ideal course has the next tee box no more than 20 yards away from the green that was just played. I don’t want to have carry a passport to get from one hole to the next.

Some architects love bunkers. Some love lakes. Golfers hate both, but they are necessary, both in terms of punishing wayward shots and also to frame holes and give them definition. Just don’t go nuts. It ruins the experience. My ideal course is a par 72, with four different par 5s, four different par 3s and the rest a variety of par 4s. I like a few doglegs thrown in. I hate courses where every hole seems to be just like the one you just played. A course that requires you to use every club in your bag more than once or twice is a good golf course. A course that requires more than bombing the drive 300 yards is a good golf course.

For a good while many designers built courses that were monuments to themselves and did nothing for the game except cause people to quit. The old courses, built by Ross, Tillinghast, MacKenzie and Park are my favorites, but among the more modern courses I really enjoy playing a Garl, Jones, Fazio, Hills, Cornish or Silva track. Tim Geary is a R.I. based freelance writer. His ideal golf course would have fairways on either side and rough running down the middle.

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