Review – Ganton Golf Club

 

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Course: Ganton Golf Club

Website: www.gantongolfclub.com

Location: Yorkshire, United Kingdom

Price ($-$$$): $$

Par: 71/72 (Championship), 73 (Medal), 72 (Club), 76 (Ladies)

Length: 6014, 6445, 6739, and 6998 yards

Rating: 90/100

What do the Ryder Cup, Brabazon Trophy, English Amateur, British Amateur, English Ladies Amateur, British Ladies Amateur, Curtis Cup, and Walker Cup all have in common? Answer: they have all been played at Ganton Golf Club in North Yorkshire. There are many reasons why Ganton has such as esteemed honors board: versatility, excellent course conditions, and clever layout to name three. Each of these three elements contribute to Ganton Golf Club being one of the finest championship venues in Europe, if not the world.

Let’s start with Ganton’s versatility. The golf course can be played from four different sets of tees and at five different course pars. For the ladies, the course spans 6014 yards at a par 76. This is an unusually high par for a 6000-yard golf course, but the layout forces many players to stick the higher par hole routes. For the men, you can play anywhere from 6445 to 6998 yards. The par for men plays at either 73, 72, or 71. This allows Ganton GC to cater for a wide range of ability and weather conditions. For example, if the course is very wet or windy, the 17th hole may be pushed back to a 250-yard par 4. However, if the course is bouncing and you have a very strong tournament field then the 17th hole can measure as a 250-yard par 3.

 

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Hole 6- Another narrow tee shot, with out of bounds right and gorse bushes left.

The second strong suit of Ganton Golf Club is its year-round course condition. It appears, no matter when you visit, Ganton is ALWAYS in excellent shape. The greens run true and fast, the tees are manicured to perfection, and the bunkers line every hole beautifully. Yes, you read that correctly, there are bunkers lining every hole. In fact, in a 2015 renovation, Ganton worked on 113 newly shaped bunkers.

Finally, you have Ganton’s clever layout. There are holes on this golf course that you simply must take your medicine and try to escape with par. One of these holes is the 446-yard 16th hole. The 16th hole is extremely tight, with out of bounds right and gorse bushes left. This hole also features a huge bunker that covers the entire width of the fairway in front of the tee. There are a few birdie chances at Ganton, such as the short par-4 17th hole. This hole is very reachable, at just over 250 yards, but only if you can avoid the huge pot bunkers that surround the green.

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Hole 16 features a bunker that covers the entire fairway width!

All-in-all, Ganton provides the perfect location for a weekend getaway or for an international championship. Its versatility makes it enjoyable for all standard of golfer and its year-round excellent condition gives you a fantastic place to play in any season. Ranked by Golf World as one of the World’s Top 100 Golf Courses, this is definitely a must-play course.

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Review – TPC Sawgrass (Stadium Course)

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Hole 17 at TPC Sawgrass – Home of The Players Championship (PGA Tour)

Course: TPC Sawgrass (Stadium Course)

Website: www.tpc.com/sawgrass/

Location: Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida

Price ($-$$$): $$$

Par: 72

Length: 5019, 6086, 6406, 6670, and 7245 yards

Rating: 97/100

 

Home of The Players Championship for the PGA Tour, TPC Sawgrass is truly one of the world’s greatest golf courses. Having played the Stadium course in 2010, I still rate this as the best course I have ever played. Its manicured tees, fairways, and greens provide you with the opportunity to play a course worthy of PGA Tour players.

Many of you will no doubt recognize some of the holes out there, either through watching on television or playing golf video games. The opening hole is a fantastic par-4 which doglegs slightly to the right, before straightening up. What you cannot fully appreciate from seeing the course on a screen are the tight fairways and the undulating greens. TPC Sawgrass is not usually renowned for having undulating greens, but they really are! The greens are deep, wide, and often feature a few different levels.

Aside from the undulating greens, the other major challenge at TPC Sawgrass is getting the ball on the fairway. Holes such as the second (image below) feature tree-lined fairways that force you to hit the ball on the target line and hit the correct shot shape. The overhanging trees that line the sides of these tee shots create a tunnel feeling and demand great accuracy.

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The second tee shot, at TPC Sawgrass – Stadium, requires a slight draw around the corner. Following a good tee shot, this green can be reached in two.

The real attraction with TPC Sawgrass are, of course, the final three holes. 16, 17, and 18 provide great drama every year in The Players Championship, and they will for you too. The par-5 16th hole is a definite birdie chance. The tee shot requires a draw around the corner and a brave second shot to a water-surrounded green. Those choosing to layup also need to be precise with their yardage and target area; the fairway narrows up to approximately 10 yards wide, before the green.

Moving on to the 17th and quite simply the greatest par-3 in the world. The iconic island green gives you goosebumps and sweaty palms, as you approach the hole. It really should be simple, hit your yardage from 92-137 yards. But, as we all know, it is not that easy.

The final hole sums up TPC Sawgrass; tough tee shot, tough approach shot, tricky green, but enjoyable all the same. On the tee shot, you must be brave and trust your target line over the water. From there, the water looms to the left of the green and green encroaches up the right-hand side. Do your best to hit this green – nobody wants to be chipping back toward the water!

In summary, if you get the chance, you simply have to play this golf course. There is nowhere in the world quite like it. For family members that are not interested in golf, the accompanying hotel has a fantastic pool and bar area close by.

PROS:

Iconic PGA Tour venue

Manicured golf course, from tee-to-green

Great range of tees to cater for all skill levels

Hole 17

CONS:

Expensive to play, stay, and eat

 

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Review – Royal Birkdale Golf Club

Birkdale clubhouse

Course: Royal Birkdale Golf Club

Website: http://www.royalbirkdale.com

Location: Southport, United Kingdom

Price ($-$$$): $$$

Par: 72 (men), 75 (ladies)

Length: 5793, 6381, or 6817 yards

Rating: 94/100

Home to the upcoming 2017 Open Championship, this links course will definitely give you that Championship experience. Sitting in the north-west of England, Royal Birkdale Golf Club lays on the coast and is a perfect example of classic English golf. Despite being less than 7000 yards, this course should not be taken lightly: pot bunkers and deep rough await any stray drive or approach shot.

On entrance to Royal Birkdale Golf Club, the symbolic white clubhouse stands out among the rolling links terrain (above image). Within the clubhouse, you can find photographs, flags, and scorecards paying homage to the great Open champions of the past. As well as a beautiful clubhouse, the pro shop is well stocked with the latest equipment and clothing.

In terms of the golf course, it goes without saying that Birkdale is special. Starting with a dogleg left par-4, and ending with a duo of par-5s, there are birdies to be made. However, holes such as the infamous par-3 12th should be tackled cautiously (below image). Stretching just over 180 yards, the challenging par-3 sits on the coastline and is surrounded by mounds of deep rough – hitting the green is a must!

Birkdale Hole 12

Hole #12 is one of the most challenging par 3s on The Open circuit. Don’t go long, left, right, or short!

PROS:

Great history

Well maintained course

Challenging but provides opportunities

Major championship course

CONS:

Expensive

Driving range sits far away from clubhouse/1st tee

Review – The Judge at Capitol Hill (RTJ)

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Course: The Judge at Capitol Hill – Robert Trent Jones

Website: http://www.rtjgolf.com/capitolhill/

Location: Prattville, AL., USA

Price ($-$$$): $$

Par: 72

Length: 4951, 5910, 6517, 7082, or 7813 yards

Rating: 87/100

Welcome to the jungle! This course will test even the most competent of golfers, with tees ranging from 4951 yards to 7813 yards. Yes, you read that correctly, 7813 yards from the Black Tees.

Aptly named, The Judge course at RTJ Capitol Hill is an extremely testing layout and features some of the most picturesque views of any course in the world. Starting with a 400-yard downhill par 4 (inserted image), that features water to the right, left, and long, you quickly realize the depth of the task laid ahead of you. From there, depending on the tees you play from, you encounter par 3s over 230 yards, and par 5s over 700 yards.

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Hole #1 features a severe downhill tee shot. From there, a narrow entry to a water-guarded green makes this one of the most difficult holes on the course.

As a Robert Trent Jones design, the greens are extremely large and undulating. Greens such as the 9th are so deep that they can play 50 yards difference between front and back pins. The greens are just the beginning of what makes this course so special, though. Most tee shots incorporate water down one side, and trees/deep rough down the other. Hole 17 is a particularly demanding tee shot, with a hazard-lined narrow fairway stretching 15-25 yards wide and sloping on either side.

As a complex, Capitol Hill offers fantastic facilities. There are 3 golf courses: Judge, Senator (to be reviewed), and Legislator (to be reviewed). Each of the three courses are vastly different, and they each play away from the 360-degree driving range. Surrounding the driving range, there are numerous putting, chipping and pitching areas.

PROS:

+ Unusual

+ Challenging

+ Excellent condition year-round

+ Great facilities

CONS:

– Very difficult course

– Cannot realistically walk The Judge

– Often very busy