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coursesSit down, take a deep breath, and prepare to be surprised. Ready? Okay. I’m going to say something nice about Tim Geary. The guy actually knows a thing or two about golf course designers and also what a golf course operator should offer to keep its customers happy. So be advised, at least for this edition, his column probably won’t contain the usual Geary drivel!

In my golf-impaired world there are five magical words that define a good golf course: variety, grooming, price, hospitality and scenery. If a golf course is missing one of these foundations, then I rate the place for mediocrity, or worse, the dreaded do-not-play list. Let me add five more descriptions that bring a course from good-to-great: difficulty, greens, design, shot-making and memorability.

Golfers (me included) love to complain about pace of play, lack of preferred tee times, weather, course conditions and greens fee but did you notice the negatives turn to positives when we play well. I can remember a few great rounds in my mostly forgettable golf career but none were on great golf courses. Another factor in considering good-to-great is history. Most courses with history tend to be well conditioned, but history can certainly make up for any lack in design and variety. Knowing that the greatest golfers to have played the game walked the same grounds you’re walking and remembering some of the greatest shots and moments from the game’s history are awesome feelings.

So what are my some of my favorite par 3 holes from popular public golf courses? I really like water and sand and island greens like No. 7 at Bay Pointe (Wareham). Reminds me of Myrtle Beach!  I like the view from No. 9 at Bass River (Yarmouth) and the brutally tough, uphill 221-yard, 17th at Waverly Oaks (Plymouth).

For my money there are no better back-to-back par 4 holes than No. 10 and 11 at George Wright (Hyde Park). No. 9 is a straightaway 440-yarder and No. 10 is a sharp dogleg left measuring 449. Two pars in a row there will be a lifetime memory! When the Jones and Nicklaus courses opened at Pinehills (Plymouth) in 2002 the reviews were five-star, and it’s rare to hear a discouraging word about the golf experience there, even though the price is $100.

My favorite municipal course is located on Long Island called Beth Page Black! Black has its faults, like lack of a finishing hole, but if your tee shot misses the fairway, the rough is thick and bunkers right and left make a difficult approach to a domed, uphill green. Two US Opens (2002 & ‘09) have been played there and the USGA slope is 148 with rating of 76.6, highest in the Northeast. Also, there is a warning sign on the first tee that reads: “The Black Course is an extremely difficult course which we recommend only for highly skilled golfers.”

In sum, a good golf course is fun to play and will keep me coming back to play repeat rounds. And, make no mistake that a great golf course will punish me, humble me, embarrass me and bite me in the rear end, but it will never, ever make me quit!

(Tom Gorman, an unabashed, unapologetic  hacker, can’t break 100 at Beth Page Black or similar tracks.)

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