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Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Fierce competition for 2006 "best new courses"

Competition is tough this year for the awards for best new courses - both public and private. Let's take a close look at some of the favorites and dark horses.

1. Private

Remember this name - Ballyneal. You will see it again for a long time. Word on the street is that this course is the strongest design of this year's crop of private courses. Tom Doak - the genius behind Pacific Dunes, Cape Kidnappers, Barnbougle Dunes, Apache Stronghold, Beechtree, The Rawls Course (stop me anytime...) has designed an old-school track in Northeast Colorado, about midway between Sand Hills and Pradera, two other excellent, indeed quintessential private designs. I'll be there before fall with a full review.

Doak also teamed with Jack Nicklaus on Sebonack GC, sandwiched neatly between Shinnecock Hills and National Golf Links of America. Both Doak and Nicklaus understood fully what it meant to design in the shadow of these two mighty monoliths of our golfing map and produced a work that can stand proudly between them - much like Strantz when he got he chance to design near Cypress,they rose to the occasion and built a natural looking, strong design. Membership rates are in the mid six-figures.

Nicklaus also has a solo effort in the running, Dismal River, in the Nebraska Sand Hills and built on similar terrain. Early reports from the course were promising.

Back to the greater NY region, Bayonne CC by Eric Bergstrol is getting rave reviews from everyone who has played it. The Met Golf Writers will have an outing there soon, so I'll report back right afterwards. Memberships start in the low six figures.

No course has opened to more marketing and expectations as Liberty National, a course technically in New Jersey, but a mere water taxi from TriBeCa. Various membership packages start between $400 and $500,000. While the course has solid views of the ocean, the course is a target golf course, penal in nature. It will look good on TV - perhaps rotating in as a venue for the Barclays during the "Run for the Cup," but will be difficult on members. Use the search engine on this site for my review.

2. Public

Midwesterners have been screaming for more U.S. Opens and PGA Championships in the midwest and hardcore golf architeture fans have been screaming back for better courses. I mean really, do Cog Hill, Olympia Fields, Kemper Lakes and Southern Hills do much for you? Thankfully Erin Hills will open any day. The USGA has alrwady granted them the 2008 Women's Amateur Public Links and many pundits say the Open will follow.

Finally, golf architecture fans everywhere are celebrating but especially so in Philly as Lederach G.C. by the "downright lovable Texan" (as one fan put it:)), Kelly Blake Moran has just turned all sorts of heads. Lederach breaks all the conventions compressing great course designs these days and shows how great greens and clever use of the land can make a terrific course out of a so-so piece of property. Kelly had all sorts of restrictions on the site, yet the shots pose interesting problems to the player, options abound and the greens have a great deal of character. Best of all the price is a modest $50 (or thereabouts depending on day and time.) Lederach should surprise everyone pleasantlylater this fall. Kelly Blake Moran deserves the ink - this is a breakout achievement for him.

Today's pic is from Ballyneal.


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