Rater’s Notebook

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September 8, 2009 | 1:11 p.m.

Rater’s notebook: Merion

Bradley S. Klein
The par-4 11th at Merion, where Bobby Jones completed his Grand Slam in 1930.
The par-4 11th at Merion, where Bobby Jones completed his Grand Slam in 1930.

1. Routing: 9

Unusual “L-shaped” routing because of the 150-acre parcel’s shape and the need to cross a road for holes 2-12. Non-returning nines. Newly lengthened tees threaten to create a crossfire effect on some holes that marginally weakens the intimate routing. Course starts and ends at the clubhouse like no other.

2. Quality of shaping: 8

Tall fescue atop and around the rolled-down faces of these bunkers is a cleaner, more modern finish than the previous craggy edges. Tees – especially the newer, elongated ones – are a bit unwieldy and inconsistent in shape.

3. Overall land plan: 9

The ...

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Categories: Rater's Notebook
August 8, 2009 | 3:52 p.m.

Hazeltine National

Bradley S. Klein
The 16th hole at Hazeltine National in Chaska, Minn.
The 16th hole at Hazeltine National in Chaska, Minn.

1. Routing: 8

Two returning contiguous nines, with a few awkward walk-backs created by the lengthened tees.

2. Quality of shaping: 7

Greenside tie-ins are well done, but too many bunkers look like inflated life jackets.

3. Overall land plan: 8

Ideal terrain that includes 75 feet of elevation change, with lodge-style clubhouse overlooking rolling ground.

4. Greens and surrounds: 8

Greens average 6,500 square feet, with every putting surface offering hole locations behind bunkers. Most are tipped gently from back to front and accessible via a ground-game shot.

5. Variety and memorability of par 3s: 8

Understated in ...

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Categories: Travel, Rater's Notebook
July 11, 2009 | 3:19 p.m.

Fallen Oak

Bradley S. Klein
The 15th hole at Fallen Oak Golf Club in Saucier, Miss.
The 15th hole at Fallen Oak Golf Club in Saucier, Miss.

1. Routing: 9

Returning nines, each with an internal loop, and many holes virtually roll off/roll on to the next tee.

2. Quality of shaping: 8

The ground features tend to be soft and sharply contrasted with the aggressive bunkering throughout. The course has 84 steep bunkers, with meaty zoysiagrass faces that make these

hazards look like fists that are pulling you down.

3. Overall land plan: 9

Ideal rolling terrain, with 60 feet of elevation change across the site. A modest 12,000-square-foot, Southern Acadian-style brick clubhouse is surrounded by transplanted oaks and appears comfortably settled without excess ...

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Categories: Travel, Rater's Notebook
May 30, 2009 | 2:33 p.m.

Pete Dye River Course of Va. Tech

Bradley S. Klein
The 18th hole at the Pete Dye River Course of Virginia Tech in Radford, Va.
The 18th hole at the Pete Dye River Course of Virginia Tech in Radford, Va.

1. Ease and intimacy of routing: 7

Each of the returning nines is a bowtie-shaped double loop, with the water on both sides of play for par 3s, 4s and 5s and balance around the compass for each par category. The nines start from a 40-foot elevated tee, then stay low and climb out after the last hole on each side. The course is laid out between the river and a steep slope with housing atop; the course drains inward down the middle to a series of ponds that are in play.

2. Quality of feature shaping: 5

At times ...

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Categories: Rater's Notebook
April 11, 2009 | 2:34 p.m.

Biltmore

Bradley S. Klein
The Biltmore hotel rises majestically over Donald Ross’ renovated 1925 course as refurbished bunkers line the 18th.
The Biltmore hotel rises majestically over Donald Ross’ renovated 1925 course as refurbished bunkers line the 18th.

1. Ease and intimacy of routing: 7

Returning nines, easily walkable, and with the hotel in gyroscopic view. Practice range in the middle seems to clutter the place some.

2. Integrity of original design: 8

Hole corridors all preserved. Silva followed the original green contours along with the bunker angles and their offset positioning. By differentiating tees, Silva ensured that lowhandicappers get tested and high handicappers have room to play.

3. Natural setting and overall land plan: 5

Land plan is fine, with golf course and surrounding real estate (on perimeter of course) enveloping the hotel tower. Not a lot ...

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Categories: Rater's Notebook
February 14, 2009 | 3:28 p.m.

Dove Mountain

Bradley S. Klein
No. 3 on the Saguaro nine at Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain
No. 3 on the Saguaro nine at Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain

1. Ease and intimacy of routing: 8

Surprisingly walkable for a desert course in foothills terrain. Saguaro nine is a big clockwise loop through lower-lying ground; Tortolita is more elevated and more scenic, with one awkwardly long crossover. Best section of the course is where Nos. 14-16 snuggle into a cove in the foothills.

2. Quality of feature shaping: 8

Playing platform pops out of the desert landscape in ways that are naturalistic, not abrupt.

3. Natural setting and overall land plan: 9

Holes are not encumbered with homesites and allow for long views into the foothills and west onto ...

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Categories: Rater's Notebook
January 24, 2009 | 3:55 p.m.

Encanterra

Bradley S. Klein
The No. 1 green at Encanterra.
The No. 1 green at Encanterra.

1. Ease and intimacy of routing: 6

Basic pattern of returning nines, arrayed around a central practice range, with the front nine looped clockwise and the back nine counterclockwise.

2. Quality of feature shaping: 7

Everything had to be created – fairway drainage slopes as well as greenside contours. An additional foot or two – no more – of elevation on tees would make a world of difference in presenting the holes better. Best touch – intentional or not – is how the occasional bunker behind a green is shaped to provide a softer version of the basic mountain outline in the distant background.

3 ...

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Categories: Rater's Notebook
January 12, 2008 | 6:43 p.m.

The Club at Irish Creek

Bradley S. Klein

1. Routing: 8

Tight, economical core front nine and expansive back nine, with lake on various sides of play. Ninth hole doesn’t quite return to clubhouse and seems to linger by the lake for a special effect that works.

2. Quality of shaping: 8

Lines flow gracefully, with features tied in well and the occasional abruptness where appropriate for drama.

3. Overall land plan: 6

Flow of course around lake is spectacular, but the clubhouse, parking lot, access road and practice range compromise the expansiveness. It will help when the dated, 1960s-looking, brick-style clubhouse (architecturally, it’s between a ...

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Categories: Rater's Notebook
September 20, 2007 | 5:57 p.m.

TPC Scottsdale

Bradley S. Klein

1. Ease and intimacy of routing: 8

Compact returning nines, with a counterclockwise front and a clockwise back. Desert floor and a central drainage wash with cottonwood trees provide plenty of separation between holes.

2. Integrity of design: 8

No discordant elements or piling of features. Course has a softer, more settled look than most new desert courses, and there are well-designed areas for the ball to roll into without the nuisance of catch basins.

3. Overall land plan: 5

Hotel intrudes between Nos. 8 and 13, leading to the lone unduly long mid-round walk. A constant stream of air ...

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Categories: Rater's Notebook
June 16, 2007 | 6:48 p.m.

Chambers Bay

Bradley S. Klein
The narrow fairway leading to the 10th hole at Chambers Bay Golf Course.
The narrow fairway leading to the 10th hole at Chambers Bay Golf Course.

Chambers Bay is the most carefully crafted and well-designed municipal golf course to open since Bethpage State Park’s Black Course in 1936. The big difference is that Chambers Bay, perched on the windy shoreline of Washington’s lower Puget Sound, has a better natural setting and makes for a more exciting walk.

Like Whistling Straits, it’s a manufactured links, but like Bandon Dunes or Pacific Dunes, it looks entirely natural. Here’s how it stands on the criteria established by Golfweek’s Best national course rating system:

1. Ease and intimacy of routing: 8

Returning nines, with both ...

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Categories: Rater's Notebook

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