Courses are the currency of golf, yet the reality is that most of them are of no value.
To be fair, every course is loved by someone. They anchor communities, commerce, childhood memories, friendships. But from the standpoint of architectural merit, most are products of the Xerox school of golf course design, exhibiting only a faded sameness that you’ve seen previously, and in sharper focus.
Great golf courses are living works of art, so it’s fitting that notions of what constitutes greatness are as subjective as in any other art-form. What is loved by me, may be loathed by thee. Courses – and opinions thereof – are the one thing all golfers share, and the best of them are reminders that the real charm of this game has nothing to do with the PGA Tour or its stars. It lies in the land we walk (or, more often these days, drive).
Tom Doak waited more than 35 years for the opportunity that was presented to him this summer, ever since he first saw Swinley Forest and Rye. Those two Harry Colt courses in England – renowned for being short on yardage but long on challenge – are the genesis of Sedge Valley, Doak’s recently announced course at Wisconsin’s Sand Valley Resort.
Great architecture exposes weaknesses in skill or judgment, and Doak’s proposed design probes the psyche even before a shot is struck. Sedge Valley is just 6,100 yards, par 68, guaranteeing that some will dismiss it sight unseen as too short to bother with, while others will assume it’s a pushover.
Like many of the small vacation towns that dot Scotland’s coast, Troon seems an awfully bleak place to anyone who isn’t Scottish. The once-thriving shipbuilding industry has long since departed, leaving behind a charmless port trafficked mainly by ferries and freight containers. But only the visitors seem to notice the biting wind and stormy squalls that rip in off the North Atlantic and across the Firth of Clyde with a dispiriting predictability. And that’s in summer.
In winter, it is so desolate you can hear dogs barking in Reykjavik.