This post originally appeared on Golf Digest.
It wasn’t a boom, but it wasn’t a bust either.
The year in golf design started with a Streamsong splash and finishes with a Trump two-step.
Along the way, several courses with, shall we say, long gestation periods finally opened for play.
Quantity is still down, but quality has never been better.
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Public course, 7,148 yards par 72 | Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw, designers
Streamsong is the golf destination of the year, maybe the decade, and as the site is a reclaimed phosphate strip mine, a great example of how golf can also serve a higher purpose. The Red is practically the Best of Coore/Crenshaw, with the chasm-like bunkers of Sand Hills, the edgy water hazards of Cuscowilla and the diabolic angles of Talking Stick.
Public course, 7,176 yards par 72 | Tom Doak, designer
Bill Coore and Tom Doak routed 36 holes together, then Coore gave Doak first pick of which 18 to build. He took the land where all mining had been completed, so the Blue was finished first. There's more elevation change on the Blue than Red (the first tee is atop an 80-foot dune) and more water in play, but the architecture of both is so complimentary as to provide a practically seamless 36.
Private course, 6,994 yards par 71 | Tom Doak, designer
Different than all other courses in the sandhills, including its sister Nicklaus-designed White Course, nearby Sand Hills Golf Club and Doak's Ballyneal in Colorado. More like Doak's Cape Kidnappers in New Zealand, with fairways on plateaus between gulches. Closing holes, in the valley formed by the narrow, serpentine, artesian-fed Dismal River, are outstanding.
Public course, 7,069 yards par 72 | Robert Trent Jones II, designer
A true municipal along the Rio Grande, which really isn't that grand, compared to the mighty Mississippi. The Trent Jones design, handled mainly by Texas associate Mark Voss, offers decent views of the river and takes advantage of meandering ravines throughout the property. The Max has surprisingly austere bunkering for a Jones Jr. design.
Public course, 7,283 yards par 72 | Notah Begay III & Ty Butler, designers
I compare this casino amenity, built by the Pascua Yaqui Tribal Council, to Shadow Creek in Las Vegas. Same concept, a fantasyland carved from flat desert, with deep dips, high hills, tumbling waterscapes, recirculating streams and opulent floral displays. Even had the same construction budget -- around $US40 million -- but has a far more affordable green fee: $US150 in season, $US75 offseason.
Private course, 7,218 yards par 72 | Gary Player, designer
Player Design moved its HQ from Florida to an office park along this proposed mountain valley course in 2008, only to have the original Cliffs developer go bust. The gorgeous layout is finally open and a showcase with Diamond Zoysia fairways, MiniVerde greens and eye candy bunkers. Player and his associate Jeff Lawrence gave me a preview last fall. 'One of the great secrets in golf architecture is contrast,' Player said. 'We made these holes look like a bear but play like a puppy.'
Private course, 7,295 yards par 72 | Tom Weiskopf, designer
It began as second 18 to the Club at Black Rock across the street, but the developer lost it in foreclosure. The owner of the Montana's Rock Creek Cattle Co. stepped in to complete the Weiskopf design. The routing offers only glimpses of Lake Coeur d'Alene, but has some wonderful holes, including the par-3 fifth with dual greens and the drivable par-4 16th with dual fairways. (Meanwhile, Weiskopf's Lantry Farms course in northern California remains in limbo.)
Private course, 7,368 yards par 72 | Greg Norman designer
Probably Greg Norman's best American design in years, The Grove had to be purchased from a Bermudian Provincial Bankruptcy Court after its original owner went under with the collapse of Lehman Brothers. Norman's very low-profile design, with deceptive bunkers and acres of tightly-mown chipping areas around the greens, highlights the horse country landscape southeast of Nashville.
Private course, 7,258 yards par 72 | Jack Nicklaus, designer
Originally called Skywater, the project went through two previous owners and two bankruptcies before becoming a private component of the adjacent Horseshoe Bay Resort. Chet Williams, then a Nicklaus associate, now on his own, was on-site architect but the design reflects Jack's eagle-eye editing. Half the course sits atop a hill-country bluff, the remaining holes at its base. The effect is stunning.
Public course, 6,505 yards par 70 | Chris Rule of Nicklaus Design, designer
The front nine holes of this residential-development daily-fee, some 30 minutes south of the Quad Cities, opened in 2009 as Fyre Lake National Golf Club. The remaining holes, intersecting both Fyre and Karl Lakes, were finally completed this year. Jack Nicklaus wasn't involved in the architecture, but his firm and his design philosophy were. It's a handful despite its short length.
Private course, 7,063 yards par 72 | Ron Prichard, redesigner
Few things provide a view of the past like a fully restored Donald Ross design. Ron Prichard, a specialist at that stuff, removed thousands of trees (after the usual member protests), relocated and rebuilt bunkers in the deep-dish Ross style (increasing their number from 52 to 116) and expanded greens to recapture crazy corner pin positions. He even restored the marvellous if controversial 'top hat' knob in the ninth green.
Private course, 6,600 yards par 70 | Ron Forse, redesigner
Another excellent Donald Ross restoration, this one by the expert team of Ron Forse and his associate Jim Nagle. Armed with a chainsaw and a complete set of Ross's original hole-by-hole blueprints, they reintroduced width to corridors, depth to greens and several marvellous clusters of bunkers. A highlight is the quarry hole sixth.
Private course, 6,935 yards par 72 | Keith Foster, redesigner
Not a restoration, but a renovation meant to re-energize a classic 1926 C. H. Alison design. Designer Foster removed lots and lots of trees (exposing some gorgeous landforms) and reestablished the original parameters to the canted greens, but since Alison had a rather mundane bunker style, Foster rebuilt and added new bunkers, recessing them into hillsides and below levels of fairways. He also gave them irregular edges to add character.
Private Course, 7,037 yards par 70 | Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw, redesigners
Hired mainly to rebunker this unique 1939 Perry Maxwell design, Coore & Crenshaw opted not to reproduce the original bunkers (some of which were enormous) but rather emulate their gnarly shapes, edges and vegetation in places where bunkers naturally fit. Lots of trees had already been removed but the architects convinced the club to remove even more. Eventually, one swath of fairway will connect the fourth, seventh, eighth, ninth, 17th and 18th holes. Very unique.
Public course, 7,238 yards par 72 | Jason Straka, redesigner
Camelback's old Indian Bend Course, straddling a linear flood control channel, was embarrassingly flat and lifeless. No more. Straka lowered and naturalized the wash and used the fill to reshape every hole with such flair that Ambiente now overshadows the resort's Padre Course. Started as a Hurdzan/Fry project, now billed as a Fry/Straka design, Ambiente is probably the most improved course of the year.
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