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Tuesday, November 23, 2004


Here is the thread for the reader's choices and recommendations for terrific public golf values! Just add a comment to this thread for this month's discussion. We've already heard from two readers. david@sabels.org recommends The Links at Union Vale in Westchester, NY. The price looks good and industry reviews make it a favorable choice for a spring review by AWITP. Tabby@deninindustries.com touts De La Vega in Santa Cruz, CA. Our crack research staff (that's me) is hard at work researching details. in the meantime, make more recommendations here.

The 12th hole at World Woods (Pine Barrens Course)

The twelfth hole at Pine Barrens Posted by Hello


17590 Ponce DeLeon Blvd.
Brooksville, FL

Architect: Tom Fazio
Par - 71
Excitement Level – 11/12
Difficulty – 8/12
Conditioning - *****
Cost - $110 Peak, $75 Off-Peak/Reduced
Yearly memberships – No
Value - *****

Tees Yards Rating Slope

Black 6902 73.7 140
Blue 6458 71.6 134
White 6032 69.8 129
Green 5301 70.9 119

Far off in the barely chartered backwaters of western central Florida – yes, you read that correctly, western central Florida – there is a thirty-six hole golfing oasis. World Woods Golf Club feels as though it is in the middle of nowhere. Tampa is roughly ninety minutes away. Orlando and Gainesville are about two hours distant. The two-lane roads that connect Brooksville with the rest of the world seem more and more remote the further you drive. This seclusion is what offers World Woods its charm, for hidden in this thinly-traveled recess is one of the world’s greatest and most well rounded facilities, headlined by two marvelous and inexpensive courses, both ranked in the top fifty public tracks in the country.

And what courses they are! Pine Barrens is internationally celebrated not just as a faithful tribute to the venerable New Jersey classic Pine Valley, but has proven since its inception in 1990 to be a design which has captured the hearts and imaginations of the golfing cogniscenti and stands on its own as a modern classic. No weak sister, the companion course Rolling Oaks has a warm, inviting charm as it meanders through meadows and farmland. Both are stern tests with world-class shot values and both are beautiful in their own, differing ways. Famed golf writer Brian McCallen of golf magazine perhaps best described the dichotomy by calling Pine Barrens a “fiery red-head” and Rolling Oaks a “permed brunette.” Best of all, World Woods may be the best kept secret in the country. Few have it on their travel radar screen and even fewer make the out-of-the-way trek to play it, but make no mistake, the most knowledgeable and savvy golf travelers will not miss a chance to play. Trading stories of rounds at the world’s great courses is part of the après golf here and players will find courses from all over the world have been collected by the clientele who also add World Woods to whatever other jet-setting golf adventures they have experienced. Connoisseurs who have played such places as Whistling Straits, Bandon Dunes, Koolau, Old Head or even South Africa or New Zealand all agree – World Woods is world class.

Neither course at World Woods will overwhelm you with breathtaking vistas, purple mountains majesty, fruited plains or spacious skies. The holes themselves are the artistry. Particularly at Pine Barrens, architect Tom Fazio took otherwise lackluster surroundings - brush and sandy scrub - and crafted a course that is an archetypal masterpiece of golf architecture. A faithful tribute to his home course, the epic Pine Valley, each hole is aesthetically beautiful, yet eminently playable. While several holes appear intimidating from the tee with their vast sandy waste areas, the fairways are wide and welcoming. Risk reward options abound. The approach shots, however, require precision in order to make par and the greens are extremely large and undulating. The adventure on any given hole is not over upon reaching the putting surface as the greens speed is usually somewhere between “parquet floor” and “asphalt” on the stimpometer.

In typical Fazio fashion “easy bogey, hard par” is the order of the day. While the waste bunkers that line the fairways are not excessively difficult, yawning chasms await misplayed iron shots and, occasionally, gigantic, deep waste areas such as on holes four and fifteen make up the lions share of the challenge. Best of all, with the woodland areas clear of debris and due to the prevalence of the waste areas, novices will stand a strong chance of finishing their round without losing a single golf ball.

Most importantly, World Woods gave birth to a whole new school of “scrub and pines” golf course architecture. Courses with the same look and feel have sprouted in New Jersey, Nebraska, Florida, and the Carolinas just to name a few. One wonders when Las Vegas will be next.


Length is not an issue at World Woods as average players can choose the Back tees (6,458 yards, Rating 71.6, Slope 134) over the Middle tees (6,032 yards, Rating 69.8, Slope 129) and not feel overmatched. Ladies or beginners will find few (if any) forced carries from the Forward tees (5,301 yards, Rating 70.9, Slope 119.) Experts can find plenty of challenge from the pronounced angles and forced carries offered by the Tournament tees (6,902 yards, Rating 73.7, Slope 140).

After two straightforward par fours, the par three third offers the only water hazard on the course. The green is severely pitched back to front and right to left, so fade shots can catch the slope and feed the ball to front left pin locations. Nevertheless, do not be above the hole as the slick green falls away toward the water hazard and poorly struck putts may roll off the green into the drink.

World Woods inimitable style then showcases itself at the eye-popping and terrific risk reward, par-5 fourth. At roughly 500 yards, the challenge is not length, but the abyss of sandy waste and scrub extending eighty feet below fairway and green level. The waste area begins at the tee box, extends all the way down the right side of the fairway and guards the front and right of the green. Short hitters or conservative players have plenty of room to the left to reach in three. Not to be outdone by its more intimidating predecessor, the fifth is one of the best par fours on the course. Straight uphill all the way, a firmly struck drive and a crisply hit semi blind mid to long iron are required to get home in regulation. Beware the deep and narrow bunker guarding the right side of the fairway and the nearby overhanging trees as an up-and-down is unlikely.

Scoring is best done early as birdie opportunities are at a premium from the eighth hole forward. Accuracy on the approaches becomes the order of the day. The eighth green sits precariously perched on a deep waste are which meanders well back into the fairway. The twelfth, a monstrous 457 yard dog-leg par 4, features a second shot severely uphill and all carry over another mammoth bunker to reach in regulation. It also features the most severely pitched green with no less than three distinct tiers and a false front on the right. Poorly putted balls may find their way back down the fairway twenty yards or more resulting in an ignominious walk of shame for the player.

The finish is both stirring and challenging. The par 5 fourteenth doglegs sharply left as it finishes at a green set in a natural dell. A deep waste area guards the left and right side for the player’s second shot. The fifteenth is a classic Fazio risk-reward par four. At a mere 315 yards – and slightly downhill – the green nearly screams to be driven. However, players must carry another intimidating waste area. Severe mounds also pepper the fairway short of the green making pitching tricky. There is plenty of room left for a fairway metal or long iron, leaving only a wedge left for an approach for more conservative players.

The 203 yard par three sixteenth is gorgeous, with tee boxes etched out of the side of the hill, a waste area extending from tee to green and a putting surface which slopes severely to the left. Many players play the carom of the hill to the left of the green and let the natural lay of the land feed the ball to the hole. Finally, eighteen is a design Fazio seems to like for a finish, a long uphill dogleg left par four of 450 yards. Since the opening of World Woods, Fazio has designed similar closing holes, most notably and appropriately at Pine Hill, his New Jersey tribute to Pine Valley.


World Woods is not only home to two of the top layouts in the country, Pine Barrens and Rolling Oaks, but it also rightfully boasts the greatest practice facilities in America. Before setting out, players can hit balls at the four-sided, 22-acre “practice park,” roll a few two-tier putts on the two acre putting course, or play the three full-sized practice holes. That’s right, players can loosen up by playing a full length par five, four and three which are designed to let players swing drivers, fairway metals, long irons, short irons, and various wedges and putt out before heading out on the course. Best of all, at $75 for one round and $110 for two in low season (November - March), World Woods is a steal. Couple this with a wonderfully inexpensive room at the quite comfortable, Plantation Inn Resort nearby and there is reason to extend they stay by several days. Packages are a steal at $145-$160.

Thursday, November 18, 2004


2350 Marshland Road
Apalachin, NY
800.304.6533 (800-30-golf-3)

Architect: Brian Silva and Mark Mungeam
Par - 72
Excitement Level – 9/12
Difficulty – 8/12
Design: six stars
Natural Setting Five and 1/2stars
Conditioning – Six Stars
Value: seven stars
Overall: Six stars
Cost - $45 peak, $23 reduced, $12 replays
Yearly Memberships – No, but $400 frequent player cards
save $100 over 20 rounds

Tees Yards Rating Slope

Tournament 7104 73.5 133
Back 6586 71.2 131
Regular 6195 70.0 125
Senior 5801 67.9 116
Forward 5101 68.4 113


Golfers who are not from upstate New York may look skeptical when faced with the premise that one of the best courses they never heard of is located in Binghamton, New York, but golf cogniscenti have made the trek to Hiawatha Landing for over ten years and have been rewarded with some of the country’s most superlative and inexpensive golf. Along with sister course Conklin Player’s Club, this tandem, located a mere fifteen miles from each other, offer two completely different, but flawlessly executed designs. Factor in that each costs a mere $45 in high season and one can understand why New Yorkers and Pennsylvanians alike endure two hour drives to play. Set in the lovely vale of the southern tier region of upstate New York, when the leaves turn in fall and the valley bursts into a palette of yellows, oranges and reds, a heavenly setting.

Hiawatha Landing is as authentic an inland links design as can be found anywhere in the U.S. Truth in advertising is critical and many people, including many in the golf industry over use the term “links style” these days (incorrectly in my opinion). Two popular guides to golf courses call anything that has overgrown native grasses and artificial mounds a links course. Perhaps the most unfortunate suspect is quintessential Robert Trent Jones layout Montauk Downs, hailed in one golf guide as “Shinnecock Hills for the masses.” The course is on the seaside at the end of Long Island and yes it gets windy, but the typical Jones parkland layout is the furthest thing from a links design. Hiawatha Landing, however, is a welcome exception to this downward trend in marketing. The course features all the hallmarks of an authentic links experience. The open routes to all the greens encourage and welcome a variety of approaches, from traditional lofted iron shots to cleverly conceived and executed bumps and runs. The mostly treeless landscape ensures windy conditions on most days. Hip high fescue covering subtle mounds guards the fairway edges and swallows errant shots. Finally, the greens are firm, lightning quick, impeccably conditioned, and roll as true as any tour layout. Their large size and subtle contours require precision to card birdies and pars.

Hiawatha Landing demands reasonable accuracy as both sides of each fairway are lined with hip high rough, water or in some places, the Susquehanna River. In keeping with its name, all the holes are named after the various Indian tribes which inhabit upstate New York. As the course pays homage to the game’s ancestral heritage, so to does the course’s name pay homage to the rich colonial history of the region. All the holes are masterfully woven into a seamless whole and every hole is memorable - each feels like an integral chapter in a compelling book which you cannot put down.


Hiawatha Landing is a fair test for players of all levels. Higher handicappers who keep out of the fescue will not be overmatched. Lower handicappers love Hiawatha’s challenging shotmaking requirements. The first hole is a microcosm of Silva and Mungeam’s success in satisfying these dual requirements. A gentle dog-leg left with the shortcut guarded by a menacing fairway bunker, advanced players must hit a draw off the tee, then a fade into the green. Shorter hitters have a fair chance at par if they find the fairway off the tee and either hit the green by lofted shot or bump and run. The second, also a medium length par four, requires a tee shot on the right side of the fairway. Such placement not only avoids a menacing lake that guards the left side all the way to the green, but allows the player to play to the open side of the green. The third is a gorgeous par three played to a green guarded by a great oak tree. The only anomaly in design as it would feel at home in a parkland layout, the hole nevertheless flows well with the rest of the course.

The fourth begins a difficult stretch which does not let up until the turn. A short but tight par four, driver is not needed and risks a severe penalty as swamp and rough line both sides of the fairway. The fifth is a brilliant cape style par 4 played along the first of the “great lakes” which take the place of the seaside admirably. Any shot right is wet.
The par three sixth turns in the opposite direction, also playing with the water’s edge along the right. The longest of the par threes, it requires anything from a long iron to a driver – again emulating a feature of classic links courses of the UK and Ireland, one par three usually requires a driver. Once again any shot right is doomed.

Seven and eight play along the edge of the Susquehanna River and are long stern tests. The par five seventh, a true three-shotter, features a long carry over fescue off the tee. The second shot must avoid a large bunker squarely in the center of the fairway. The second of the great lakes guards the left side of the hole and cuts in front of the green. The front nine closes with a fantastic and atmospheric reachable uphill par five. The entire hole is lined by bunkers and reaches a climax at an elevated green guarded by a mountain of bunkers on the right. This is a quintessential example of Silva’s cathedral bunkering style, where an enormous hill guards the green, with deep penal bunkers piled high one upon the other. The access road to the course is immediately behind the green, so any approach long is OB.

After a birdie opportunity at the short, straightaway par four tenth, the eleventh showcases Silva and Mungeam’s depth of design features. After a draw off the tee around one of the few stands of trees left on the property, the approach is played uphill to a punchbowl green. Silva had mapped out the course on paper and left the landscaping primarily to Mungeam. After reaching the green on his first time at the course, Silva smiled and exclaimed to Mungeam with delight, “You made a punchbowl green!” According to Silva, Mungeam grinned and sheepishly admitted that he kept its contours mild so as to minimize any potential outcry. Happily the typical Hiawatha patron is both knowledgable and open-minded to such creative design features and 11 is a player and critic favorite.

But the excitement is only beginning. If 11 is a charming and subtle masterpiece, then 12 is a juggernaut. Quintessential Hiawatha Landing, the fairway on this long par five bobs and weaves its way back and forth through shaggy fescue covered mounds, giving it an elusive, will-o-the-wisp quality before a hard right turn leads to a semi-blind green. Big hitters can try for it in two, but a large, deep bunker guards the front of the green and the shot is almost totally blind.

The finish is wildly dramatic and offers terrific excitement for players and spectators alike. The 415 yard par four 15th plays through massive dunes to a green featuring a severe false front. Two long accurate shots are required to earn a par. Next, one of the most creative risk-reward options greets the player at the 420 yard par 4 16th. Short hitters can play safely to the right of a massive cross bunker, but since the hole dog-legs left, the approach will be between 200-230 yards. Bold players who carry the 200 yards over the cross bunker will catch a down slope and have a short iron approach left, but be careful. Once again the green slopes off hard short and right and is guarded by some of the deepest bunkers on the course on all sides.

In a brilliant coup of design, the sixteenth tacks back close to the clubhouse and a man made hill provides adequate seating for a large group of spectators, who then have a prime seat for the shots played to the par 3 17th. With the second immense great lake on the left, sand short and rough right and long, this hole is arguably the best in a long line of great holes. Finally, the 18th is an unforgettable cape style par 5 playing from right to left along the steep edge of the lake. True to the concept that a great finishing hole summarizes all that came before, the player must once more negotiate around a great central lake, while threading shots between deep bunkers and hip high fescue. It takes two perfect shots to reach with a hope of an eagle, but one mistake and double bogey is certain. The green is shallow and sits right below the clubhouse restaurant. As visitors and other players love to watch approach shots while enjoying a bite or a drink, players are assured a gallery that will enthusiastically applaud good shots. In perhaps the most thrilling finish in course history, one player won the annual Thanksgiving Day Turkey Shoot Tournament by making an incredible two. In the deep chill of upstate New York Novembers, the great lake had frozen. The player bounced his drive off the frozen pond, across the hazard to within chipping distance of the green. His chip-in for double eagle won the tourney by one shot.


Since opening in 1994, Hiawatha landing has attracted a broad, deep and loyal following. Serious players and golf connoisseurs love the course for its terrific shot values and faithful recreation of golf on the other side of the pond. Average players also love its gorgeous and memorable design. Higher handicappers must keep the ball in the fairway as the fescue is deep, thick and penal. The par fours are all uniquely designed, charmingly beautiful and feature fascinating shotmaking requirements. The two reachable par fives are well guarded with heroic all or nothing shot values. Silva and Mungeam use a seemingly endless variation of design features, from false front greens to punchbowl greens, from amazing cross-bunkers to idyllic, but dangerous lakes.
Hiawatha Landing deserves its mantle as a course of national significance. The course is the overwhelming choice for tournament play, from U.S. open qualifiers and New York State championships to the annual Sylvania National Golf Writers’ Tournament. Even rock stars and politicians are frequently repeat patrons. PGA Head Professional Bernie Herceg could not be more pleasant or accommodating and the food is terrific.


In researching his golf books, Jay Flemma hit golf balls into the Atlantic Ocean, the Pacific Ocean, the Sheboygan River, the Susquehanna River, Lake Couer D’Alene, Lake Michigan, the swamps of Sawgrass, a quicksand pond, (Richter Park), some guy’s swimming pool (Troon North), and a cactus (also Troon North – on the same day as the swimming pool). He played in 35 degree weather in Florida and 102 degree weather in Idaho. Jay made eagle two on number 12 at Shore Gate and took 19 shots to play the last two holes at Caledonia. He made a par 3 at the 17th at Sawgrass after hitting his tee shot on to the 18th teebox. He broke 80 at such places as The Boulders, Conklin, Casperkill, TPC Tampa Bay, and Ocean Hammock and shot “a buck and change” at Caledonia, Crumpin-Fox, Tot Hill Farm and Troon North (Monument Course, see "cactus" and "swimming pool" above...) Jay played about 1,449,000 yards of golf – or roughly 823 miles. He met wonderful and kind golf comrades from Bangor to Baja and from Seattle to Sarasota.

When not researching golf courses for value and excitement, Jay is an entertainment, copyright and trademark lawyer and Entertainment and Internet Law professor in Manhattan. His clients have been nominated for Grammy awards and Emmy awards, won best director awards at the Sundance Film Festival, performed on stage and screen, and designed pop art for museums and collectors. As a nationally recognized expert on the issue of Internet distribution of media, his opinions are requested and relied on by government officials and representatives in both the U.S. and U.K. His numerous professional publications include articles in scholarly journals, the NYS Journal of Entertainment Art and Sports Law, and the World Encyclopaedia of Popular Music. A Walk in the Park is his first golf book and will not be his last.

Jay lives in Forest Hills, New York and is fiercely loyal to his alma maters, Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts and Trinity College in Connecticut.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004


10100 Kentland Rd.
Providence Forge, VA

Architect: Mike Strantz
Par - 72
Excitement Level – 10/12
Difficulty – 11/12
Cost – Peak $60-$79, Reduced $35-$59
Yearly Memberships – $$3,000 initiation
plus $150/mo single, $225/mo family – unlimited golf + amenities
Design - Six and 1/2 stars (out of seven)
Natural Setting - Five stars (out of seven)
Conditioning - Six stars normally, three stars with conditioning issues summer of '05
Value - Five and 1/2 stars (seven if they get the conditioning issues resolved)
Overall: six and 1/2 stars

Tees Yards Rating Slope

Invicta 7374 76.5 152
Tournament 6965 74.9 144
Back 6560 73.1 141
Regular 6126 70.8 135
Forward 4971 72.0 130

Williamsburg Virginia’s rich history is echoed in a course which harkens back to the formative years of golf - Royal New Kent. Founded on the great traditions and designs of the game when it was first conceived, Royal New Kent’s windswept hills, towering fescue and nerve-testing blind shots are all reminiscent of the way the game originated across the pond.

Architect Mike Strantz forged a friendship with the staff and members of Royal County Down in Northern Ireland and frequently would play matches with them on both sides of the Atlantic. After seeing the rumbling, topsy-turvy landscape upon which the course now sits, he knew he had the perfect place to build a course to pay tribute to his friends and the courses of their homeland. However, as he is never one to settle for mere imitation, Strantz did not just mimic architectural elements of timeless classics like Royal County Down, Ballybunion and Sunningdale. Certainly he created a beautiful and accurate reproduction of a windswept inland links – right down to the mostly treeless landscape, open routes to most greens, and 134 deep bunkers. But Strantz also infused his own inimitable style to the template by adding yawning chasms, enormous multi-tired greens, and over-sized, over-the-top dunes and bunkers to produce dramatic vistas and strategic shot values. Everything at RNK is huge – the bunkers, the greens, the forced carries – everything. The end result is a fierce and intimidating behemoth of a golf course which exposes any and all weaknesses in a player’s game and ruthlessly metes out punishment. Despite its difficulty, since its opening in 1996 to industry-wide acclaim, players have made the pilgrimage for a true and unique test of their talent and psyche. When you think you are good, come to Royal New Kent.

Amazingly, Strantz actually moved very little earth to build RNK. He merely cut down a few low positions, added height to some high spots and created the illusion of moving many cubic yards of dirt. Such an illusion is a microcosm of the course design itself. Wider than it looks (and therefore easier than it looks – to a degree), strategic options are plentiful. Further, width allows less skilled players to enjoy the course more and play at a faster pace. At the same time the course is as beautiful as it is rugged. Each and every hole is memorable in its design – so much so that it is impossible for players to agree on any one “signature hole.” But players should not get distracted by the views - each hole is also another opportunity for the course to wreck a player’s scorecard and shatter a golfer’s ego. Royal New Kent is designed for experienced golfers – it is a double black diamond ski run, two blitzing all-pro linebackers, and a Randy Johnson fastball all rolled into one.

At the start of the round, pick the correct set of tees. The regulation tees (whites – Rating 70.8, Slope 135) appear short on the card (6,126 yards), but the forced carries, wind, enormous mounds (to play in, around and sometimes over), and constant uphill approach shots make the course play much longer. The advanced tees (black – Rating 73.1, Slope 141) play a seemingly manageable 6,560 yards, but the forced carries and angles are much more pronounced. The tournament tees (gold – Rating 74.9, Slope 144) are more than enough challenge for any expert golfer, stretching to 6,965 yards. Finally, for professionals, posers, egotists, and fools, the “Invicta” (Latin for “Unconquerable”) tees (tips – Rating 76.5, Slope 152) stretch this already tortuous layout to an ungodly 7,374 yards. Both the Course rating and Slope are higher than the legendary Bethpage Black Course, site of the 2002 U.S. Open. However, players can only play the Invicta tees if they leave their driver’s license or credit card at the pro shop. These are returned in exchange for the players’ scorecard upon completion of their round. Scorecards are displayed in the clubhouse grill room for the amusement of all. The course can be tough on ladies and beginners as the forward tees (green) have several intimidating forced carries off the tee, but since they measure less than 5,000 yards, the course should be manageable.


Most golf course architects like to get the player off to an easy start with a relatively mild opening hole or two – but not Mike Strantz. Indeed, at RNK the worst three may be the first three. Standing on the first tee, one can barely see any of the first fairway as it winds and twists like a will-o-the-wisp some 90 feet below through towering dunes. Even worse, its false front green slopes so severely back toward the fairway that many poorly-played chips or downhill putts will roll nearly 60 yards back down the fairway from which the player came. Many unwary victims begin their round with this ignominious walk of shame.

For those still mumbling about their poor start, the par five, 512 yard second hole offers no solace. The course commands the golfer’s attention with one of the most intimidating sights on any golf course, anywhere. After driving uphill out of a stand of trees, the hole turns right and reveals a yawning chasm of hip high rough and broken scrub which lies at the bottom of a fifty foot deep crevasse. The minimum carry on the second shot is 225 yards to a sliver thin green which is also guarded by a bunker on the left and trees behind. Conservative players may lay up well to the left to face a shorter but just as perilous third shot approach.

More careful analysis of the hole reveals that it is not just “hard for hard’s sake,” but demands smart play and accurate execution. The hole is actually very similar to another superb hole – number 13 at The Dunes Club in Myrtle Beach. Both holes are dog-leg right par 5s and both feature a dramatic hazard that must be carried on either the second or third shot. But, the shot values demanded of the player are similar too. Both tees shots must be placed on the right side of the fairway to offer any hope of getting home in two. The left side of the fairway is the optimum side to aim for if a player will lay up. Those who find themselves on the right and decide to play safe, have a more difficult angle of play. One note: the green at RNK is far shallower than its counterpart at The Dunes.

The par three third requires a long iron over two bunkers which are cut obliquely in front of the edge of the green and continue around the left side. Any shot short or left leaves the player with blind chip shot from a sand trap situated forty feet below the hole. Left or short are not options here. All in all they are three holes of sheer terror. Nevertheless, the course does not get significantly easier, it just settles into a constant dull roar of demanding shots.

Take, for example, the monstrous 576 yard par five fifth. Seven bunkers encircle the landing area, including three massive cross bunkers which segment the landing area from the rest of the hole. Second shots must be played over the bunker complex to reach the second part of the fairway. The dunes framing the hole are so massive players feel like fleas walking on the back of a beast.

Similar in design to number 3, the 186 yard, par three seventh features a rocky brook that cuts diagonally from the front of green to the back left corner. Any shot that lands short will be played uphill from heavy rough situated thirty to forty feet below the putting surface.

After a short par four featuring a semi-blind approach to a green beautifully nestled among two mounds and a tight par four ninth, the back nine opens with a terrific risk reward par five. The tee shot plays directly over a set of bunkers to the widest fairway on the course. The approach must carry a waste area and bunker to reach the two tiered green.

If there is any relief to be offered at Royal New Kent, the greens are over sized, so careful players can try to play safely to the middle and minimize the severe penalty which imprudent or misplayed shots will incur. However, the enormous greens frequently feature pronounced tiers making lag putts from the wrong portion of the putting surface challenging. The 86 yard long green at number twelve is the most difficult as two large greenside mounds pinch the middle of the green essentially making two separate 40 yard greens. Put the ball in a spot on the green where one of the mounds blocks the direct path to the hole and face the frustrating task of putting sideways to a position which offers a direct line to the hole.

By the time one reaches the fifteenth tee, players are frequently drained both physically and mentally. Nevertheless, the finish at Royal New Kent is unyielding. Fifteen, a par three, plays over 200 yards and features a severe false front green. Shots short or right will lead to another 40 yard chip shot. The 459 yard sixteenth frequently requires three shots to reach the green as a ravine cuts in front of the putting surface. The last of the par fives, seventeen, entices the player to go for the green in two, but a stream runs along the front and right edges ready to catch any shot that does not land on the putting surface.

After seemingly emptying the bag of tricks, Strantz mischievously requires the golfer to negotiate two forced carries over water on the last hole. The tee shot plays blindly over 100 to 120 yards of water to a small landing area. The short or mid-iron approach is to an essentially island green completely encircled by 110 yards of water in the front and a creek circling around the back. A narrow path runs along the very left of the fairway to a small entry to the green, but even that route is perilously close to a watery doom. It’s strictly hero or zero on this approach. Interestingly, design constraints led to its creation. The course needed an irrigation lake so the course could be watered. The only location was the 18th green complex. Even that was not large, enough, so they pulled the 100 yard section from in front of the green. It is not an authentic links design, but who cares – it is unforgettable. The drama and tension caused by these all or nothing shot values makes the eighteenth a world class finishing hole worthy of mention beside any of the great finishing holes in America.


Royal New Kent is a devilish, but ingenious test of a golfer’s skill and psyche. Not only are tee shots intimidating, but the approaches have wonderfully high shot values. Most of the real difficulty at RNK stems from the penal nature of misplayed second shots. Bunkers are enormous and deep and swales are quixotic and severe. There are few courses with more tortuous up and down challenges from greenside than RNK. Despite its difficulty, RNK’s design is so unique and creative, all players will have fun, no matter what they shoot. Royal New Kent’s central location makes it easily accessible from the Carolinas, Washington, DC, or other Mid-Atlantic and southern locales. Richmond is only located only twenty miles east, off Interstate 64 and Williamsburg feels like a mere five iron away. Royal New Kent’s beauty, conditioning, difficulty and unique design make it one of the nation’s finest facilities and it is a steal at the paltry fee of around $60.

Taking the golf illness global!

Welcome everybody to on line blog for A Walk in the Park - the series of golf guides that highlight the country's greatest PUBLIC golf values. If you are sick of skyrocketing greens fees, boring layouts, scrambling for teetimes, and those muni-course blues, take heart. We make egalitarianism a part of the game again. We tell you which courses are worth the money and why. Stellar designs by the games greatest architects and those terrific diamonds in the rough share the stage equally. The course counter (number of ranked courses in the US I have visited) is at 204. The journey has hit 36 states so far. By the time we are ready to finish the first volume of "A Walk in the Park" - the national volume - I should be close to 250 courses played and 42-43 states. This volume will feature 18 "Tour/Resort" facilities and 27 daily fee courses - all of which are designs of national significance. Plus we tell you how to get on the expensive courses cheap! Never pay through the nose or be disappointed again.

After that, plans are set for regional volumes to follow, "A Walk in the Park - Pacific Northwest," "A Walk in the Park - Mid Atlantic", etc. We even have plans for a volume of private courses. The weblog will soon blossom into a full website as soon as my website team gets it up and running, hopefully a few weeks.

In the meantime, we will be providing course reviews, stories from the road, interviews with course pros, touring pros, photos and much more. But the book and site are also about you - the forgotten consumer. So participate! Let us know what you think of the great courses (and whether their worth it), the great designers, and your favorite holes. Feel free to recommend your favorite course for our review. until then - get out and play! See you on the links - Jay


We have made every effort to insure that the information in this book or our website is both accurate and timely. However, the information may have changed for any number of reasons and at any time including market forces or economic conditions. As a result, be sure to call ahead or otherwise contact the courses to confirm the information before making any travel plans. The author, editor and publisher shall not be responsible for any inconveniences of any kind experienced by players and travelers resulting from changes in the information provided in this book or our website. If you discover any out-of-date or incorrect information in this book or our website, please let us know by contacting us. Play well.