Rater's Notebook

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Bradley S. Klein
Cliffs Communities' Mountain Park course in Travelers Rest, S.C.
Cliffs Communities' Mountain Park course in Travelers Rest, S.C.

TRAVELERS REST, S.C. – Mountain Park is a long-overdue addition to the Cliffs Communities golf courses. Literally overdue, in that it has taken years longer than it should have due to various financial delays that postponed completion of a course on which construction started five years ago. Stylistically overdue, as well, because it stands in bold contrast to the prevailing aesthetic of lush, heavily manicured parkland that otherwise prevails at this residential chain of seven Cliffs properties straddling the North Carolina/South Carolina border.

Kudos to The Cliffs at Mountain Park designer Gary Player and his team for their persistence ...

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January 16, 2013 | 5:08 p.m.

Rater's notebook: Streamsong, Blue Course

Bradley S. Klein
The 12th hole on Streamsong's Blue course.
The 12th hole on Streamsong's Blue course.

• Designer: Tom Doak

• Par 72, 7,176 yards (74.1 rating/131 slope)

1. Ease and intimacy of routing: 7

Doak’s layout occupies much of the middle ground of Streamsong, and then crosses over the Red Course for a five-hole loop (Nos. 8-12) along some wooded property. This creates a mild disjuncture that undercuts some of the coherence and integrity of the respective courses and makes them harder to distinguish.

2. Quality of feature shaping: 9

When you look at the uncleared areas and see how rough they look, you marvel, by contrast, at the elegant native contours that ...

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January 16, 2013 | 5:05 p.m.

Rater's notebook: Streamsong, Red Course

Bradley S. Klein
The 16th hole on Streamsong's Red course.
The 16th hole on Streamsong's Red course.

A look at the Streamsong Red Course:

Designers: Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw

• Par 72, 7,148 yards (74.2 rating/130 slope)

1. Ease and intimacy of routing: 9

Coore and Crenshaw’s course forms a long, sinewy, continuous clockwise loop of nonreturning nines, with many walk-off/walk-on connections from green to tee. In part, it runs under towering lateral dunes. There is more dramatic terrain at the start and end, with a softer section at the far end of the layout. The back nine plays much longer and harder than the front.

2. Quality of feature shaping: 9 ...

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Bradley S. Klein
A view of the green on the 449 yards par-4 18th hole with the clubhouse behind on the No. 3 Course, the venue for the 2012 Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club.
A view of the green on the 449 yards par-4 18th hole with the clubhouse behind on the No. 3 Course, the venue for the 2012 Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club.

MEDINAH, Ill. -- For those who believe that manorial, tree-lined fairways are the paradigm of superior golf, Medinah No. 3 presents an iconic landscape. What this proven Chicago-area championship venue might lack in strategic variety, playing angles and diverse turf textures, it makes up for in its sustained commitment to a style of aerial power play that has defined the modern era of tournament golf.

The 600-acre site, just west of O’Hare International Airport, looks and feels like an elegant arboretum. Some of its state-registered hardwoods date back 350 years. Small wonder that at times during a round you feel ...

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Bradley S. Klein
The par-5 18th hole
The par-5 18th hole

1.) Routing: 9

Returning nines, with the front nine to the south forming a tight clockwise loop and the back nine on the north side feeling like a necklace folded in on itself. Good balance of exposure to coastline and inland.

2.) Quality of shaping: 7

Fairways have big flow, but not a lot of quirky crumple to them. Biggest limitation here is the repetitive form and appearance of the deep, revetted bunkers. Tees have been shaped into little platforms, with a front “lift” of turf and high grass that render them invisible from the fairway.

3.) Overall land plan ...

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June 30, 2012 | 12:34 a.m.

Crying wolf

Bradley S. Klein
The sixth hole of Blackwolf Run Golf Course as seen on Sunday, September 19, 2010 in Kohler, Wis.
The sixth hole of Blackwolf Run Golf Course as seen on Sunday, September 19, 2010 in Kohler, Wis.

KOHLER, Wis. -- Herb Kohler, plumber salesman extraordinaire, thought he was meeting demand at his secluded Wisconsin resort in 1988 when he opened 18-hole Blackwolf Run Golf Course. Little did he realize that he actually was creating demand for more golf.

Having converted a rundown dormitory for Kohler Co. laborers into a luxury retreat, Kohler placed enough confidence and trust in his golf architect, Pete Dye, that he split up that initially successful 18-hole Blackwolf Run course.

The original front nine became the back half of Meadow Valleys, and the original back nine became Nos. 1-4 and 14-18 of the River ...

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June 14, 2012 | 3:26 p.m.

Full tilt

Bradley S. Klein
No. 2 on the Lake Course
No. 2 on the Lake Course

SAN FRANCISCO – There’s a reason why the first turn at Talladega Superspeedway is banked 33 degrees right to left. If it were tipped the other way, stock cars racing at 200 mph would hit the counterclockwise curve and careen into the Alabama countryside.

Maybe that’s why so many great players have come to grief at Olympic Club’s Lake Course. The famous San Francisco layout, home to its fifth U.S. Open, has seen the game’s stars crash and burn, leaving our most prestigious national title to be picked up by a few surprise winners.

It all ...

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May 11, 2012 | 1:03 p.m.

Southern Comfort

Bradley S. Klein
No. 5 at Aiken Golf Club
No. 5 at Aiken Golf Club

AIKEN, S.C. – Maybe it’s the torpor of Southern air.

Or the way the canopies of magnolia and live oak trees drape the land and wrap it in green vellum. Somehow, history lives on here undisturbed, fending off the modern world and taking comfort in timeless ways.

At 5,800 yards from the back tees, par-70 Aiken Golf Club might seem an anachronism. But golf in its traditional form has a long shelf life. A century, in fact, which is precisely the age of this lovely, gracious, rambling little daily-fee layout.

During the same week that long- hitting Bubba ...

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April 5, 2012 | 1:18 p.m.

Wild, wild West

Bradley S. Klein
No. 4 at Conestoga
No. 4 at Conestoga

MESQUITE, Nev. – Every once in a while you stumble onto a golf course and wonder why you haven’t heard more about it. That’s the case with Conestoga Golf Club.

The 2-year-old course is part of Sun City Mesquite, a 1,700-acre, master-planned community of 3,500 homesites that’s owned by Pulte/Del Webb and oriented toward active seniors.

It’s not just retirees who will want to play golf here. The course, designed by Arizona-based veteran architect Gary Panks, has an unusually appealing quality for a layout set in the harsh desert ground of eastern Nevada’s ...

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March 2, 2012 | 12:42 p.m.

Dallas reboot

Bradley S. Klein
Stevens Park in Dallas
Stevens Park in Dallas

DALLAS - I’m standing on the 15th tee of Stevens Park, peering out to the Dallas skyline three miles away and thinking, “This is what municipal golf is all about.”

Here’s a model of what the modern game could be – urban, part of a neighborhood, slightly overloaded by sounds and images, but fun and sociable. Why this can’t be re-created elsewhere is a question that folks in the golf industry need to ask. The renovation of Stevens Park is a case study in how to do things thoughtfully, efficiently and modestly. Let other municipalities waste tens of millions ...

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December 15, 2011 | 5:25 p.m.

Rater’s Notebook: Sandia Golf Club

Bradley S. Klein
Sandia Golf Club, ranked No. 5 in New Mexico.
Sandia Golf Club, ranked No. 5 in New Mexico.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – There’s something transcendent about the light in New Mexico.

When viewed from an airplane, the land up and down the Rio Grande River looks hopelessly forlorn and barren. And yet when seen from the ground, the stark rock and outcroppings of the sparsely vegetated terrain acquire powerful shape and tone – enough to make a visionary of painter Georgia O’Keeffe for capturing the land’s magic with her bold use of ochre and red, as if the land were alight.

For a golf course here to make an impression, it has to be more than just ...

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December 1, 2011 | 2:04 p.m.

The modest touch

Bradley S. Klein
An aerial shot of the Dormie Club's 18th hole
An aerial shot of the Dormie Club's 18th hole

WEST END, N.C. – For 25 years now, Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw have been doing things differently.

A down-home, aw-shucks pair of guys who are more comfortable in jeans than jackets and ties, they came into the design-and-build industry as a low-key, dirt-scratching team when most other architects preferred a fleet of bulldozers and big construction budgets. While others sought celebrity status with their “signature” designs, Coore and Crenshaw almost seemed embarrassed to be paid for something they love to do.

As ground-hugging naturalists, they work with existing contours rather than manufacture their features. Their chief virtue always has ...

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October 28, 2011 | 9:13 a.m.

Bay State roller

Bradley S. Klein
The 239-yard, par-3 fifth hole at Shining Rock
The 239-yard, par-3 fifth hole at Shining Rock

NORTHBRIDGE, Mass. – There’s a reason why they essentially gave up farming in central Massachusetts two centuries ago. One look at the rocks and ledges at Shining Rock Golf Club is enough to convince the most skeptical observer that finding arable ground here, let alone enough space for golf holes, must have been a monumental task.

It’s not entirely clear they have succeeded. In fact, it’s something of a miracle of design and dynamite that this daily-fee course midway between Worcester, Mass., and Providence, R.I., is open at all and playable.

Credit goes to general manager Tim ...

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September 22, 2011 | 3:33 p.m.

The River wild

Bradley S. Klein
The fourth hole (foreground) and eighth hole at Dismal River
The fourth hole (foreground) and eighth hole at Dismal River

MULLEN, Neb. – If you’re looking to get away from it all – really far away from it all – I have just the place for you.

Tiny Mullen, which bills itself as “the biggest little town in Hooker County,” sits smack dab in the middle of the Nebraska Sandhills, nearly 20,000 square miles of grass-covered dunes. Omaha (to the east) and Denver (to the west) each is about 300 miles away.

Maybe it’s one of those strange post-modern inversions of market law (“location, location, location”) that the more remote and inaccessible, the more intense the emotional appeal.

Local ranch ...

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Categories: Travel, Rater's Notebook
August 7, 2011 | 4:27 p.m.

Better with age

Bradley S. Klein
Atlanta Athletic Club
Atlanta Athletic Club

JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – Two plaques. Three iconic shots. And now a fourth professional major. Not bad for a golf course that’s only in its fifth decade.

For all its activity as a major venue and busy private course, Atlanta Athletic Club’s Highlands Course never has rested on its laurels. The par-70 layout, 7,467 yards long for the 93rd PGA Championship next week, bears little resemblance to the layout that opened here northeast of Atlanta in 1967.

Few modern courses have been through such a dramatic transformation in 45 years, especially after debuting so famously on the national ...

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