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Course Characteristics
By Snyper on 1/3/11
Matt is an opinionated* golf enthusiast from Pennsylvania. He coaches at the high school level, molding the minds and swings of our next generation. Feel free to chime in with your thoughts and opinions of Matt in the comments. Don't hold back- because Matt won't.

Every time I head out to play a course for the first time, I experience anxiety similar to Christmas morning. There is nothing more enjoyable than finding another course to add to the favorites list and nothing more disappointing than realizing by the third hole that I wasted my money on a dog track. However, I am always amazed at how some people like courses that I hate and vice versa. You would think that the things that make a course enjoyable are pretty standard, but I contend that there are actually a lot of different things that people consider before passing judgment on a course. And, in addition, the importance of those characteristics is most likely what determines someone’s final impression.
The art of putting is difficult enough on its own measure, so when I actually make a good stroke, I expect it to go in.

For me, the course has to have greens that are in decent shape. I absolutely cannot stand playing a course with greens that are bumpy. Whether it is because of damage or just the fact that they don’t roll their greens often enough, greens that don’t roll true are a deal breaker for me. Now, this hatred probably stems from my obsession with score. If I hit a putt that doesn’t go in because it hit three or four imperfections in the green, I am livid for the next 20 minutes. The art of putting is difficult enough on its own measure, so when I actually make a good stroke, I expect it to go in. I can deal with my lack of ability being the reason that the putts don’t fall, but when it is the trashy condition of the greens that inflates my score, the makes me pretty angry. So, the first thing that I look at when judging a course is the condition of the greens. Notice, I didn’t say that the greens need to be fast. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE fast greens. However, as long as they roll true, the speed isn’t enough to sway my judgment about a course.

After the condition of the greens, I look at the geography of the course. Like most golfers, I absolutely hate playing the game in the middle of a housing development and I love to play golf in the middle of the forest. When I look around and all I see are trees, I’m a pretty happy golfer. Rarely are courses quite that remote, but as long at the trees outnumber the houses, I can usually deal. I am also not a big fan of roads located next to every hole. Of course, there are usually going to be a hole or two next to a road, but courses should be doing their best to hide those areas. Plant a row of trees or high grasses so that there is some barrier between the course and the highway. It’s not that hard or expensive to create natural barriers and it goes a long way towards upgrading the experience of the course. Speaking of upgrading the experience, if you can manage to have some wildlife living on your course, that is a big bonus! Seeing some deer make their way across the fairway, watching ducks float on a pond, or even seeing the occasional squirrel searching for some nuts, nature in action increases my golfing experience exponentially. That is, of course, excluding geese and ground hogs, both of which make me think more about violence than golf!

My x-factor, if you will, for judging a course is the number of shot-making opportunities that exist. In other words, how many times can I stand over a shot and have to make a decision about how I want to hit it. Things like, how much of the corner do I want to try to cut off, how much water do I want to try and carry, is there a place that I absolutely can’t miss this shot, how much will the elevation change alter my club selection, or should I go for it or lay up. All of these are questions that I love the opportunity to ask myself during a round. However, one question that I do not want to ask over and over again is “where should I aim?” I despise blind shots like I despise terrible greens. In fact, flawless fast greens in the middle of a forest would not be enough to outweigh a lot of blind shots. I like to watch the ball from the time I hit it till the time it lands. I can’t stand wondering if I hit a good shot until I find the ball. The optimal layout for me is one that is straightforward with plenty of choices. You can see the entire hole and you have options on how you want to play it.
My x-factor, if you will, for judging a course is the number of shot-making opportunities that exist.

The last, but certainly not least, important characteristic of a golf course that weighs significantly on my decision to ever play there again is the customer service. As I have written about previously, I want to feel good about my decision to give the course my money. It is not asking too much for the golfer to feel appreciated and to be treated more like a guest than a servant. I’ve worked in the industry long enough to know that people want to be treated well and they will not come back if they aren’t taken care of by the staff. In fact, I routinely play courses locally that I am not a big fan of, but I love the people there. So, I go back. That is what business is all about. And, unfortunately, some pros don’t understand that running a course means running a business.

So, what is it that you look for when you play a course for the first time? Is it the conditions of the greens, pace of play, distance, fairways, the number of bunkers, the view, or maybe the quality of the cart? I have heard guys who point out all kinds of interesting characteristics that they consider before deciding if they like a course or not and it always intrigues me to hear what different players judge to be important about a course.


* Matt's views and opinions are his own do not necessarily reflect those of oobgolf.

photo source


[ comments ]
mjaber says:
I'm pretty easy to please. For the most part, I agree with Matt. I don't want to hit a wayward drive and take out some little kid playing in his backyard, or some poor schlub trying to get to the store because his wife forgot to tell him to pickup milk on his way home from work.

I've played some courses that COULD be nice, if they did a better job of maintenance. I'll still play them once a season, to see if they've improved, but until they do, they stay at once a year. One course had immaculate greens, but the fairways were dry and barren in a number of spots. Bunkers had grass growing in them- one even had plastic showing under the sand.

Overall, if I feel like I can reach most of the holes in GIR provided I make good shots, I'm OK. I hate the 200+ par3, and I'd like to have at least 1 drivable par4, but if the course is in good shape and the pace of play is good, I'm OK with anything that may get thrown at me (unless it's a club).
1/3/11
 
mmontisano says:
there is only 1 course i won't ever play again, and that's because i'm shallow. i just can't seem to score well on that course any time i've ever played it. so i stopped going.
1/3/11
 
ppinkert says:
I couldn’t agree more on the shape of the greens. I have a hard enough time getting to the green when I do I want a fair chance of making the put. The second thing I look for is a fair rough. I am still fairly new to the game after returning from several years lay off, however, I just can’t stand roughs that are so deep that when you hit into them it’s as bad and sinking your ball into the water. We have a course here that is just that way and I have a hard time playing the course thinking I’m going to need a dozen balls to make it through 18 holes.
1/3/11
 
cpercy says:
I look for courses that are walker friendly, and I don't mean flat I enjoy a lot of elevation changes and a hilly landscape. The thing I don't like is 200 yard treks between the green and the next tee, especially if all that's needed to quarter the walk is a shortcut through the woods or a mowed path across a high grassy area. We have one of the top ranked public courses in the state of MO here in KC but I will not play it for this reason. They have set up the course to exclude walkers and they will lose a lot of revenue in the process. I also look for courses that have a naturalized look, as though they are part of the landscape.
1/3/11
 
ellmnopyon says:
i hate playing courses littered with animal excrement
1/4/11
 
homermania says:
I agree with Matt about the true rolling greens. For a similar reason, I hate courses where the tee boxes don't offer a flat stance.
1/4/11
 
bducharm says:
I travel frequently for business and every now and then I get a chance to drag the clubs with me. I played The Presidio golf course in San Francisco a few years ago. The cost was $85 and by the looks of the place, it was going to worth it. Upon arriving, I got that same excitement Matt spoke of. However, it was tempered IMMEDIATELY when arriving at the first green. The greens had been punched and were in very bad condition. The putting green was not like that. I went into the pro shop and asked to speak to the head pro. I basically told him that it was not worth $85 to play a course in such bad shape and they should have warned golfers. He basically shrugged it off and sent me on my way. I will NEVER return to that course again.
1/4/11
 
bkuehn1952 says:
I am not a fan of "cart mandatory" courses and tend to play more frequently at courses that allow walking on an unlimited basis. Many times I will arrive at a course as a "walk on" and hook up with another single or a group missing 1-2 players. At courses where carts are mandatory, that requires me to ride with someone I do not know (and vice versa). I have no problem playing with other people but I do not like being forced into close proximity for 4+ hours.

Additionally, I like the exercise and since I am chea ... frugal ... I like saving the cart fee.
1/4/11
 
Mandelbaum! says:
Uneven/unkempt tee boxes are the worst. Nothing says, "we give up" more plainly than that. While rarely seen, wild mushrooms growing on the green also is an eye opener for just how bad things can get.
1/4/11
 
larrynjr says:
Paying full price during the off season with punched greens......
1/4/11
 
svj says:
i hate bunkers with little or no sand... i swear to whatever if my club raises membership and doesn't put an enough sand to hit out of this year, i'm going to lose my mind... i dont understand an owner of a golf course, who doesnt play golf. i think it is also want it is wrong with this nation, you have people make the decisions for working class people, when they never been one...
1/4/11
 
billbadaz says:
playing on a course in the middle of a neighborhood that has white out of bounds stakes 10 feet off the fairway, drives me nuts. Also, I agree with Matt 100% when it comes to greens. If I hit a putt on line and I miss b/c the ball hops 3 times, I get furious. I will shoot an 84 on a muni course that I should shoot 75, and then shoot 75 on the hard course b/c I will be able to make a handful of birdies and par saves, which does not happen when you put on unpredicatable bad greens. Other than that, I will play anywhere. I am too much of a gold nut to worry too much about the course. If I can get on as a single, or there is a good deal, I will play.
1/5/11
 
RickB51 says:
I like the old courses that are for the most part walker friendly. Seems the newer ones are built to force the golfer to rent a cart who would otherwise walk.
Newer courses also have a tendancy to give you an uneven lie when you have placed a good drive in the middle of the fairways, thats just not right. The favorite courses of mine are the ones that continue to have the best greens.
1/6/11
 
legitimatebeef says:
Slow and bumpy greens, not too bad. Fast and bumpy is a recipe for agony.
1/6/11
 
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