While I didn’t travel as much as I have in other years, I did get out to play some golf in the UK in April, travel through BC and Alberta in August, head to Cape Breton in September and see some of NY and Connecticut in October.
Here are the highlights from 2010:
It may not sport a very inventive name, but Doug Carrick’s Ridge Course, a rebuild on top of nine existing holes with an equal number of new holes, was far and away the best new course I saw this year. Not that there were many courses opening – and even fewer in construction. Pretty much makes “Best New” an anachronism. Still the Ridge Course had several jaw-dropping holes on the course, especially the section from 2 to 10 where Carrick’s use of rock and great green sites brought drama to the proceedings.
A Course Named John
I traveled out east to see Graham Cooke’s The Lakes in September. Not a bad course, but without doubt the most innocuous moniker in Canadian golf. The only hope is that everyone calls it by its geographic name – Ben Eoin.
When Lambton Golf and Country Club sent out a press release saying that “Open Doctor” Rees Jones had done surgery on the course, I was worried that he may not have sterilized the equipment. Could the venerable old Lambton get an infection that it couldn’t recover from? Thankfully it wasn’t nearly that bad. The new Lambton is good where the land is strong, and a bit plain where it is flat as a table.
One of these kids is doing his own thing
When it opened in the spring, no one could figure out what to make of Turnberry GC, located near Brampton. The course had 16 one-shot holes and two fours – but its challenging green sites and tee shots over water let everyone know this wasn’t some executive pitch-and-putt. Instead it was a delightful place to have a match, as I discovered a couple times this year. Too bad North Americans are so concerned about medal play.
played more than anywhere this year), and FireRock near London. Saw some old flames this year as well – Banff (which still needs to fix its bunkers), Sagebrush (which continues to dazzle), and Hamilton. Also spent a week hanging around St. George’s for the Canadian Open where Thompson’s gem proved its merit.
I had the good fortune to play Beverly Golf and CC this summer, a year after extensive tree removal brought the course’s greens back to life. The course is a real sleeper – one that deserves more attention than it receives. Of course I could be biased because at the end of an otherwise mediocre game, I carded my third hole-in-one on the 17th.
How do you follow up a million seller?
That’s the question golf entrepreneur Mike Keiser faces when Cabot Links in Cape Breton opens next year. First he did Bandon Dunes, then he ventured to Australia for Lost Farm and now he is poised to deliver Cabot Links in Inverness, NS. My walk around with Keiser in September demonstrated to me that this course should be special, and a second course is already in planning stages.
I made my seemingly annual pilgrimage to the U.K. this year in advance of the Ryder Cup. While the so-called 2010 Course underwhelmed, Royal Porthcawl wowed me, and I had one of my best games of the year at a course called Aberdovey. Maybe that shouldn’t come as a surprise as Aberdovery has a long connection with writers and was once the favourite course of Bernard Darwin. I also had the chance to see Nefyn and District, Pennard and Southerndown, and got a couple of free beers off some slow-playing Germans.
I only ventured to the U.S. for golf once this year – in the fall to Westchester, where I played Knollwood, Quaker Ridge, Yale, Fishers Island, Fenway and Winged Foot. The Greater NY area has a staggering amount of good golf, but it was the rustic charm of Yale and Fishers Island that really stood out for me. And if you like the 5-minute boat ride to Bigwin Island, then you’ll love the 45-minute ferry over to Fishers Island. Totally unique and remarkably good. A big shout out to Tom Dunne for his help, as well as Jimmy, Donny, Neil and Gil Hanse.
If it weren’t for those first three holes….
Is there a course in Canada with a tougher start than Greywolf, the Doug Carrick design in the interior of BC? Three holes – two par 4s and par 5 – playing uphill hundreds of feet is daunting at best. If you took those out of the equation there’s no doubt that this is one of the best in Canada.
Hidden in Plain Sight
Priddis Greens has held two Canadian Women’s Opens – but I never had the interest in seeing it. In August I took a day to check it out –
and am I ever glad I did. A great practice facility, friendly staff and a tough, yet fair modern course over stunning terrain that has been tweaked by Gary Browning. A real eye opener.