From Dye to Fazio, what's in a golf course's architect's name? Unfortunately everything
I have recently come to the conclusion that course rankings are basically useless, because the factor that carries the most weight is without a doubt the architect’s last name. Give Golf Digest or Golf Magazine a new course designed by Dye, Fazio, or Nicklaus, and they foam at the mouth. The course is decorated with more stars than the American flag, and the greens fees shoot through the roof. However, many of these courses don’t live up to their reputation, and you feel that the guy behind the counter in the shop should have been wearing a stocking over his face and toting a pistol rather than talking about the greens.
Getting excited to play a highly-touted course only to be disappointed is a horrible feeling. Most likely you’ve planned this day far in advance: you might have taken a day off; you’ve looked at your swing in the mirror the night before (I do this- it never works); and you’ve made ridiculously obvious comments like, “Man, if I could just keep the ball in play tomorrow and make a few putts, I’ll be fine.” You arrive to a spectacular clubhouse on a beautiful day and think nothing can go wrong. And then you step on the first tee. As you play the first seven or eight holes, you hope that the course will get better, that something will change, that you won’t have to be disappointed (You hope silently of course- you don’t want you friends to know that you think this “4 1/2-star course” is overrated). Eventually you start hoping that the squirrels will talk or the trees will play defense against your shots- anything to make the track worth $200.
This has unfortunately happened to me too many times, and I’ve now decided to develop my own course ranking system. I’m in the process of making a “rubric” with my own criteria, and I’ll share it once it is finalized. Any suggestions will be welcomed and appreciated.
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I played Atunyote, the highly-touted Fazio tournament course at Turning Stone Casino in Central New York, last Summer. The imbecile formerly known as TG Blogger had panned the course, but I loved it. Here's my label: four opening pars followed by pitch-in eagle on five, followed by bail-out six iron into pond for double on six. Shot 80 from tips for a great round. Is it the same course as the other two at T-S? No, and that's the beauty. This is Fazio's "northern Augusta" and it plays easily for the mid to high handicapper, but darned difficult for the low handicap or pro from the tips.
As far as some of Fazio's courses go, I agree that he does an excellent job of creating courses that are playable for everyone, but very difficult when you back it up to the tips. Examples: The Frog (just west of Atlanta), and Osprey Point at Kiawah Island. Mr. Nicklaus, in my opinion, has a lot of work to do on many of his designs, at least some of those that are open to the public.
The man rocks!
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