Continuing our “My Top Ten” series, we asked Ohio-based golf course architect Drew Rogers about his favorite courses.
One of the great things about golf courses is that there are so many different expressions to experience – they are literally everything different and hopefully unique in some way, not unique.
Therefore, as golfers, we are inspired in one way or another by certain golf courses. While some tastes stand out or overlap as universally “great,” others can “sneak through” as being more particularly appealing or stimulating to our personal senses. My fascination happens to be drawn to more whimsical layouts with quirkiness and distinction – I’m always looking for surprise and fun!
Since we are fortunately all a little different, it has always seemed unrealistic to produce lists of ‘biggest’ or ‘best’ with something as subjective as golf courses. But since being asked to write down my ten favorite courses, regardless of value, I’ve put together a group that either stirred my architectural mind, or gave a lot of fun to play – or more. ideally both!
Huntercombe, England. This is Willie Park Jr at his most eccentric. Surprisingly bold features with deep crater-like dips and pits, and steep, heather-laced hummocks – unlike anything I’ve ever seen by Park, let alone anyone else. The greens are as distinctive and playful as ever from Park and there are very few bunkers. The course is now skillfully laid out by my good friend, architect Tim Lobb. Huntercombe is an absolute joy to see and play. If you know, you know!
St Enodoc (Church Yard), England. An old world link from James Braid that made my head spin. I felt like I was being invited to find my own holes there! A real breath of fresh air that took me back to my childhood with holes that just seemed to be begging, why not give it a whirl? Audaciously daring…with distinctive coastal beauty, historic charm, ocean views, a church, trails and iconic bunkers, it’s well worth the long journey to the very tip of the southwest coast of England.
Pine Hills, Wis.. OK, I’ll openly admit that I’m a bit biased with this course, mostly because I’m checking out the club now. This cannot detract from my sincere appreciation of what Harry Smead has produced here and what Ron Forse has continued to hone for many years. The massive landforms and deep bunkers invite comparison with the work of Langford & Moreau at Lawsonia Links, also in Wisconsin, but at Pine Hills this similar audacity is certainly more of a natural expression compared to the results of the steam shovel. of Lawsonia. The undulating green surfaces here are also some of the best I have ever seen. My first visit to Pine Hills left me speechless, and now I have the great honor of spending quite a bit of time there!
North Berwick (West Links), Scotland. There is not much to say here. That’s about as close as a golfer can get to a perfect playing field, including famous holes such as Redan, Pit, Gate, Point Gary and others less copied. After playing here, the presumption of what golf is – or should be – will likely be in play. North Berwick inspires me to reflect fun and pushes me to seek out those more imaginative opportunities in my work. It’s also the only course that I have to revisit on every trip I make to Scotland, without exception.
Bandon Trails, Oregon. This architectural masterpiece by Coore & Crenshaw is the most modern on my list. I am deeply inspired by this course, not only for its great beauty and strategic game values, but also for the way it was built on such a complicated site (bogs, heavy soils, relief, forest, dunes, etc. ). I had the advantage of walking on this property before a single tree fell or a shovel dug into the ground and I feel like without a doubt, this The site was absolutely the most difficult of all in Bandon. To see what has finally been created here is more than astounding to me…and it checks every box of what a great golf course should have – even though it is the only course in Bandon that is do not on the ocean. For me, that makes the feat noticeably bigger.
Swinley Forest, England. I absolutely fell in love with this place while studying the works of Harry Colt during our restoration efforts at the Old Elm Club in Chicago. The two share quite a few similarities – and why wouldn’t they? But what stands out for me is the elegance and balance of the course and the surrounding landscape…absolutely pure, but rough around the edges. Colt used scale and proportion masterfully – and he was among the best at it! The course is short by most standards at a par of 69, but there are at least seven par fours over 400 yards. The holes are full of bold and subtle expressions, they are unmistakably strategic, full of angles and optional routes, while making full use of space. An amazing golf course (and unsurprisingly, Old Elm too).
Shoreacres, Chicago. Being in the camp of the offbeat, I am almost obliged to find favor with the works of Seth Raynor. His popularized pattern holes are versioned on a huge range of courses across the United States and his influence cannot be underestimated. What amazes me about templates is how they can be used and have been used on so many different sites and in so many varied applications. Shoreacres is simply sublime…with its layout of the holes, its masterful use of the site’s main ravine and the complete avoidance of the cliff face overlooking Lake Michigan, literally within earshot of the first tee. So fun, so beautiful (even without the lake view), and absolutely among Raynor’s best.
Eastbound Ho!, Massachusetts. This brilliant layout by Herbert Fowler was recently restored by Keith Foster – and it was something of a wake-up call to what is truly one of the most breathtaking and scenic golfing experiences in the eastern states. -United. Rolling fairways are characteristic here, which create very difficult uneven lies and tricky approach shots, especially when the winds blow over the water. Fowler must have felt at home here, like he was back in happy old England… he has that special feeling.
Elks of Kankakee, Chicago. Until recently, I had only heard strange rumblings from this “off the beaten path” place. But after finally stopping to see it, I found this Langford & Moreau effort completely unique and full of architectural expression like nothing I had ever seen or expected. The green complexes are beautifully sculpted and the shapes shaped on the course produced a clever deception of depth and resulting angles and options. The course was over-/poorly treed – and this negated some of the obvious fairway alignments and foul lines. But all of this could very easily be fixed if desired. I can only remember three sand bunkers on the course, and it seemed to me that none of the three were worth keeping. So that tells you what a great job L&M has done with their shovel!
The old course at St Andrews, Scotland. Possibly the most famous golf course in the world – and I join many others in also finding it one of the most confusing and interesting layouts in existence. I wouldn’t characterize the old course as having any uncommon scenic beauty (compared to many other links courses), but I find the odd, crumpled nature of the ground and the wonderfully open layout of the holes to be delightfully enjoyable. ‘eye. Perhaps more than any other course in the world, you have to really study the options and angles here (keeping the ever-changing wind in mind) in order to have great success…or have a great caddy. Still, losing a golf ball here is almost unthinkable. Where else can you say that? In addition to history and lore, there are reverse holes, back facing bunkers, double greens, a hotel wall, bunkers named Hell, Principal’s Nose and the Coffins, the Swilcan Bridge, the ‘Valley of Sin’ and perhaps golf’s most iconic inland backdrop (the town of St Andrews). I could go on. This place is more than amazing, and it has us all scratching our heads while standing still as the measure of all things golf…anywhere.
So, there you have it, my list of ten classes that give me great pleasure, uniquely inspire me, and challenge me…and there are so, so many more. It’s hard for me to imagine that courses like Maidstone, Sunningdale, Cypress Point and National Golf Links of America aren’t among them…but I guess that gets to the heart of the matter when we put together these golf course lists. . Great golf is all around us in all types, shapes and characteristics… so how can we evaluate them other than by our own preferences? Fortunately, my bucket list remains full… Royal County Down, Rye, Friar’s Head, Myopia Hunt Club, Royal Melbourne, Fisher’s Island… the list goes on. This is a good thing!