This is a pure one, no doubt, and way off the grid. Mouth’s idea, so give him credit. How many holes does it take to make a course great? I’ll let him fire the opening salvo, then you’ll see my thoughts. Simultaneous writing, so neither responds to the other.
The Mouth That Roars
Sometimes it just takes one.
Maybe you think it’s a hokey sentiment, but I believe it. It applies to golf courses, their greatness and the holes that make them. When you talk about great golf courses it’s easy to focus on the big names: Pebble Beach, Augusta, St. Andrews, Pinehurst, etc. Their names are essentially synonymous with greatness.
I believe greatness comes in all shapes and sizes though. And, honestly, if at any point during a round a golf course makes you stop and think, “this is great, this is unique, this blows me away,” then it achieves a piece of greatness.
All golfers yearn to play the golf courses the pros play. It gives us a chance to see how we measure up. It allows us to share fairways with legends.
Still, there’s quite a bit to be said for any course that compels you to return. I’m sure places like Pebble Beach will always leave you wanting more. But, there are countless courses across this region and world with a few holes to take your breath away. A course doesn’t need a five star rating to make it great – sometimes it just needs a hole or two that call you back.
Mo’ Golf~It takes 18 Holes To Make A Course Great, unless…
Mind you, they don’t all have to be great. In my mind, there are differing levels of greatness. I’ve had the opportunity to play one of the truly great golf courses in the world, that being the Old Course at St. Andrews. We’re talking one of the top 10 ever built. Every hole at the Old Course is great, albeit in different ways. Not a single hole is a breather and the course would be incomplete with 17 originals and 1 “other,” regardless of the hole you replaced. Same goes, I imagine, at Pine Valley, Cypress Point, Merion East, Sand Hills and Royal Melbourne Composite.
There’s a subsequent level of greatness, courses that rank in the top 25 worldwide, but not in the top 7-10. These 15 courses probably have a hole that, when pushed, could be eliminated/replaced. It would be the flagship hole on any of thousands of courses in the golfing world, but among the elite, it stands out as memorable but why? A good example is number 16 at Yale, or 12/13 at Shinnecock Hills. Just how it is.
The next level of greatness is, are there any weak holes at all, followed by, do we have greatness in western New York? I would say that we have two courses that rank at this level, with CCB above Crag Burn with one caveat. I’ll get to that in a moment. It is important for weak holes, at this level, to come early in the round. They do, at CCB. Numbers one and two are breather holes, ones that allow you to ease into your round with a 3-metal, 7-iron into accessible greens. The course stiffens at the third and remains that way through the remainder of the round. 13 through 15 is the most daunting driving stretch in western New York. Hit three fairways at 250 yards there and you are a player, my friend. My caveat is, the three mid-length par fives at CCB must play as par fours, giving the course a par of 69 with only one true par five hole, number 13. In contrast, some might say that the 17th and 18th holes at Crag Burn are not the course’s strongest holes. That’s a shame, as the stretch of 11-16 might be unequaled by any other six-holes stretch around.
Finally, take a look at your home course and choose its best two holes. They can’t have the same par, though. Imagine what combination of aesthetics, difficulty and ambiance they possess, to make them stand out. That’s what makes a course great.