Rater's notebook: The Golf Club at Harbor Shores

No. 6 at Harbor Shores.

No. 6 at Harbor Shores.


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1. Ease and intimacy of routing: 3

You either rue the disconnection of holes or admire the tenacity of the architects for fitting the routing. However impressive the technical achievement, as a golf experience it suffers.

2. Quality of feature shaping: 6

Individually, many of the holes sit elegantly on the land, and there has been an impressive effort to incorporate greenside surrounds and rolloffs. But there are just a few too many incursions of arbitrary hazards or tightened layup areas.

3. Natural setting/overall land plan: 3

The site compresses too much in too many small pockets across too large of an area.

4. Interest of greens and surrounds: 4

It seems that ever since he collaborated with Tom Doak on Sebonack (2006), Jack Nicklaus has been willing to go to extremes in the name of creating challenging greens. But here he goes beyond, nowhere with more abandon than at the 539-yard, par-5 10th, where the putting surface feels like it’s sliding off a hill.

5. Variety & memorability of par 3s: 5

The five par 3s range from very short iron to long iron/fairway metal. Unusually contoured greens, particularly at the back of several greens, make it impossible to shape the ball; it has to be parachuted in.

6. Variety & memorability of par 4s: 6

Really good variety, with the 324-yard third hole tempting players to take a whack at the green from the proper tee. Midlength seventh and eighth holes repel shots into the greens. The last three par 4s all skirt water and are narrow on the approach.

7. Variety & memorability of par 5s: 6

Kudos for the second shots here, which have to be properly placed, whether by angles (on the first two par 5s) or by length (on the final two par 5s).

8. Basic conditioning: 9

Lots of native grasses and wildflowers in roughs; solid bentgrass surfaces down the middle and at the greens.

9. Landscape and tree management: 8

Good mix of open field/meadow holes and a back nine that ambles through established hardwoods.

10. Walk in the park test: 2

It’s not a walk; it’s a ride (though carts are optional). And it’s not a park; it’s a busy, visually hectic site. The occasional long views are impressive, especially on the three dunes holes. But those images get displaced by the clutter.

Overall: 5.0

One of the most ambitious and interesting public courses in recent years, though at the risk of sticker shock and sensory overload.

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