Ranking The 5 Drivable Par 4s Hiding in Plain Sight at Mike Keiser’s Dunes Club

Mike Keiser and Dick Nugent (as well as Jim Urbina for more recent renovations) deserve credit for many things at Dunes Club. Swapping flag positions after players have completed nine holes goes a long way in diversifying two rounds, particularly on the par threes. Allowing the last hole’s winner to choose the tee on the next may have inspired the same admirable policy at Ballyneal, Ohoopee, and others. The Pine Valley aesthetic offends few, of course. 

Does any combination of new flags and new tees really make for a new course the second time around? No…this claim has been exaggerated on social media. Granted, the scorecard does offer an opportunity to turn your back nine into a Monster energy drink commercial…every par four can be played as a 3.5 from the forward tees. 

Should you? Probably not. Short par fours are fun, and the option to make par four drivable is fun. But five within one eighteen-hole routing waters down the concept, and ultimately weakening the course*. Should you get an invite, however, you’ll want to make at least two gettable. This ranking aims to help you choose wisely when that day comes. 

* = Bethpage Black Metal has been described as an “uptight prick” by several noted sources. 

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The Correlation — or Lack Thereof — Between Price and “Quality” in Top 100 Public Golf Course Rating Systems

A simple question, really: Does the price of a round directly correlate to the quality of that round? This simple Statistics 201 exercise aims to figure out just how much a high price point equates to high quality of architecture in the eyes of major rating organizations. 

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Donald Ross, Seth Raynor, Bill Coore and More Renovate The Best Courses BPBM Played in 2022

If you’re on social media, you’ve likely read a list, by someone much wealthier and/or better connected than you (power to them), listing the best golf courses that they played during the past year. It’s obnoxious (again, power to them). What makes it worse is when their summaries are less insightful-look-into-the-minutiae-of-golf-course-identity, and more I-was-there photo dumps. 

I’m a cynic. I don’t believe the perfect golf course exists, in the same way that I don’t believe many truly terrible golf courses exist. I, a blogger and social media guy, provide very little value to you if I don’t emphasize fatty spots on what is otherwise a fine cut of meat. And that’s how I came up with my annual “best of” format: Rather than simply slobbering to you about how great a course like Bandon Dunes is, I choose my least favorite hole and offer suggestions for improvement. 

That would be too easy, however, so there’s a twist: 

Each hole is redesigned from the mindset of a different golf course architect. A golf course architect from elsewhere on my year-end list, whose own hole will be dissected in the style of one of his cohorts later on. Confused? You’ll figure it out. Let’s start with a tough one, and hopefully learn something about these architects and some otherwise pretty great courses. 

So…what would happen if HERBERT FOWLER renovated NO. 6 at BANDON DUNES?

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Probably The Last Photo Tour You’ll See at This Site: Yeamans Hall’s Greens

I don’t advertise myself as a photographer for numerous reasons. The first, and secondary reason: It’s tough to be a consistent online photography presence when you travel as little as I do. The second, and more primary reason: I’m a writer by nature, and a guy who’s got a lot to learn in terms of photography. At least one web denizen caught on to how my black metal schtick works — low light, zero color and, on rare occasions for trve Norwegian effekt, high contrast — and he suggested I check out his club. Summer in Charleston he said…greens that were watered and not much else. Might suit my style. The club? 

Yeamans Hall. 

Even if he had been totally wrong about how the course presented in the black and whites…even if the photos did suck…I could have putted for days on these greens. As someone who tilts toward Tillinghast and Ross’s approach to golf course design, it pained me only a little to acknowledge that this set of Raynor’s was the finest group of greens I had ever putted upon. I’ve not traveled as far as many, but I reckon these will still be among the best when they lay me down. 

Oh but the photos…my host was totally correct on that front. They turned out. I don’t do course tours because, again, I’m humble enough to know my portfolio doesn’t justify it. But the conditions that day, coupled in part with oncoming thunderstorms, resulted in something really cool. Something that many more qualified photographers could easily recreate, grant you. But give me this one photo feature guys…I promised I won’t rag on you if you choose to write a blog post. 

And so, the greens of Yeamans Hall: 

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Make-Your-Own Sheep Ranch: 7 Hypotheticals in The Spirit of Bandon’s Newest Course

The Sheep Ranch, Bandon’s fifth 18-hole golf course, has raised an argument among the muckrakers on golf social media: Is the resort better for having it, versus what was there previously?

In case you weren’t aware, the current route sits on a plot where 13 greens once lay, left by Tom Doak, connected by fairways expanding in every direction. No route existed. Merely 13 greens and your choice in how to get them. An idyllic experiment. Although many are thrilled with the fifth addition to the Bandon portfolio, there is a healthy number who argue that Sheep Ranch’s former purpose was the better.

And these people, let’s be clear, are likely overly idealistic. Calculate the logistics: To play at the former concept course, one required permission. A choose-your-own-adventure golf course is a major liability, potentially even for just two foursomes on the property at one time. The current setup opened the gates, so to speak. We appreciate the original concept, but it’s totally unattainable if open to the general public.

The property’s former purpose opens up a massive opportunity, however, if Mike Keiser decided that he wanted to raise an intense amount of money for some charitable purpose. Many are willing to cough up thousands at charity auctions for foursomes at a private course. Think what you could do (and the money the item would earn) to have free rein at the modern Sheep Ranch for a day?

The Coore and Crenshaw retooling resulted in greens that play more to the purpose of a set route, sure. But the Sheep Ranch’s relatively cramped plot also means there are far fewer “wild” areas…the dense dunes and fescue that separate holes at the resort’s other courses. This opens the door to bold ideas and alternate routes.

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The Top 100 Metal Albums of the ’10s: Black, Death, Doom, and even One Metalcore for The Kids

A long time ago, I intended this site to include more music writing. And then I acknowledged that the vast majority of my audience was here to read about golf. Not metal. This will be the rare exception.

The obvious question: Why release rankings for the Top 100 Metal Albums of the 2010s more than two years late? The short answer is because my buddy JT, whom I’ve always hated, didn’t suggest I do so until Summer of 2021. So it’s his fault.

Here are some essential stats: Eighteen of the album covers feature some level of skulls. Four were painted by John Dyer Baizley.

The rest is for you to find. I hope that if you’re new to metal, you find one album you can appreciate. If you’re old to metal, I hope you find something new. Or something to yell at me about.

Also, as a side note, all of the descriptions below were written as drafts, intended to be worked over later. But then WordPress broke, so I can’t edit it now. Apologies.

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Donald Ross, Tillinghast, Pete Dye and More Renovate The Best Courses BPBM Played in 2021

You know what’s great about being a middle-class dude blogging about golf course architecture? I rarely play the World Top 100 clubs that are so over-discussed on social media that it’s positively impossible for me to find a new angle on them. Everything I say about Rhode Island Country Club is going to be new to somebody!

Anyway, that’s how I justify to myself why you would have interest in reading my own “Best of 2021” list, despite its lack of World Top 100s. To be honest, any “best courses I played” blog post is inherently cliché. And so I created a fun activity (for myself, if not any of my readers): 

The six best courses I played during 2021 each came from a different architect’s pen. I considered what another architect on the list might do if they had the opportunity to renovate my least-favorite hole at a different course on the list that they didn’t create. 

For example, what would happen if Pete Dye renovated No. 9 at Davenport Country Club? Let’s find out! 

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The New Sitwell: Are the Alister MacKenzie and Willie Park Greens of Yore Possible in 2021?

At some point in your life as a golf course architecture aficionado, you’ll stumble across a photograph of the No. 12 green at Sitwell Park Golf Club, a Sheffield-area course that doesn’t attract as much international attention these days, despite the name “Alister MacKenzie” on the marquee. You, if anything like me at that point in my understanding of golf course design and construction, will squint your eyes and grin in the “you gotta be kidding me” method.

What is now known on message boards simply as the “Sitwell Park green” was created to combat a routing problem struck by MacKenzie during 1913. The routing required two greens, nos. 12 and 18, sit next to each other while requiring an uphill approach. If he had performed a common “cut and fill” to build the greens atop the hill, the putting surfaces would be both blind and punished but the newly-steepened slope. MacKenzie chose to create a large green that poured down from the top of the hill, full of roll almost unimaginable to the modern player (which you can see below).

Even at the time, local players were scandalized and the green disappeared, replaced with a far more pedestrian model.

The Sitwell Green remains celebrated online. Tom Doak, a proponent, built No. 13 at Barnbougle Dunes as a tribute to the lost putting surface. But even that, one of the funkiest greens on the planet, seems a bit watered down compared to the inspiration.

I began to wonder…with minimalist golf being all the rage, what’s preventing the creation of Sitwell-level green slopes?

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The Bunkers at Broadmoor (Indiana) Country Club and The Indefinable Donald Ross

I was driving along Interstate 70 and decided that I wanted to play a Donald Ross…so I stopped at Broadmoor.

No, not the Denver-area resort. Although that Broadmoor checks all the above boxes, I live in Columbus and needed a quicker fix. That, and an email alerting me to all of the restoration work that had recently been completed by Bruce Hepner, led me to pull up short in Indianapolis and check out the other Broadmoor, a country club on the near-west side of town.

I’m the kind of guy who does bare-bones research in the lead-up to a round — usually looking at Google Map aerials — so I know what to expect and, more importantly, what I should ask about.

Immediately, from one glance at Google, I had several questions, and they all dealt with the bunkering. After playing the course, I had even more.

It’s dangerous to describe a “normal” Donald Ross course, as the architect created almost as many courses as his Golden Age competition combined, which gave him room to wiggle and tweak. I’ve read Golf Has Never Failed Me and I’ve played enough Ross courses to know that no one breaks Ross’s rules as much as Ross himself.

That said, the bunkering at Broadmoor struck me as highly irregular on three fronts. I was able to speak with Bruce Hepner, who oversaw the restoration for Broadmoor, so he could set the record straight on these three aspects of Broadmoor’s bunkering.

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Alex “Nipper” Campbell and Potential, Unacknowledged Architectural Brilliance at 3 Major Hosts beyond Moraine

Nothing is more annoying than a humble brag posturing as a blog post. You’ve played a Top 100 golf course, and you’re sharing it with us by profiling said course! Thank you! The good news for you, my humble readers, is that I have not played a Top 100 course to crow down to you about. Nope.

But yeah, I totally landed a tee time at Moraine Country Club for next month and I’m pretty happy about it.

But in the name of journalistic integrity, as well as my own genuine curiosity, I sought out more information on Alex “Nipper” Campbell, the Scottish pro who designed Moraine. Namely: “What else did he do?”

The one-hit wonders of golf course architecture hold an appeal in their “what if.” What if George Crump had spread his apparent talents wider, rather than just dying over Pine Valley? Why couldn’t Henry Fownes have just done one more, away from Oakmont?

Moraine may be one tier below these courses, but not by far. The “mystery” of Crump and Fownes is relatively easy to put a lid on: “Sure, they could have created other world-class courses, but they didn’t.” Campbell and Moraine is more mysterious, because the golfer designed several other courses, none of which compare to his peak. “One-hit wonders” happen frequently in the music business, where one great album simply doesn’t translate into the future. We’re biased…but it seems that golf course architecture shouldn’t work that way.

Shouldn’t brilliance that resulted in a monument like Moraine have shown its face at other locations?

Campbell’s other offerings around the Dayton area certainly display some quirk, and no doubt the years have removed features that may better display Campbell’s skill.

Don’t worry: This isn’t a post attempting to claim Alex Campbell did not design Moraine Country Club. Rather, it’s an attempt to claim that Campbell’s hands were involved in the creation of several other courses…clubs more noteworthy than the majority of his remaining discography.

So here are several other courses where Campbell may have had a hand, and where he hasn’t received his due for it. From most likely to least likely:

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