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I am pursuing the ultimate golf experience. In doing so, I am playing the top 100 courses in Canada (initial goal), as well as the top 100 in America and top 100 in the world. Please email me or leave a comment to join me on my journey, and help me reach my goals! Thank you for being a part of my great quest! Luke, The Golfing Canuck

Sunday, 11 September 2016

SCOREGolf Top 100 - 2016

Since starting this blog a few years ago I have stuck with the SCOREGolf top 100 list from 2012. I considered switching to the 2014 list at the time of its release, but chose to pursue a fixed target rather than a moving one. In addition to pursuing a fixed goal, I was also persuaded by, what I perceived to be, a weak 2014 list with many inaccuracies. While no list is ever perfect, I wanted to chase the most accurate top 100 list.

The 2016 list is, in my opinion, the best top 100 list to date.

For this reason, I will be switching my blog to the 2016 list. It is not without fault, but no list ever will be. There are some deserving additions (Royal Mayfair, Tower Ranch, etc) since the 2012 list, and very few exclusions. With time, many courses have found a more deserving place on the list (Bear Mountain - Mountain down significantly to #72; meanwhile Victoria GC has crept up to #23).

An unfortunate exclusion in 2012, Tower Ranch climbs to #45 in 2016
Puzzlingly left off of consecutive lists, the classic Royal Mayfair is back at #59

Since pursuing the most accurate top 100 is my ultimate goal, it would seem ludicrous to use a list that doesn't include both Cabot courses. This has contributed to my decision to update the list, and also points to a need to update again in the future.Why? In a word: Sagebrush

While it seems strange to use a list without Cabot, it also seems unusual to exclude Sagebrush. With the recent ownership changes and zoning issues Sagebrush has not been open long enough to get the required number of rounds to get rated. This will surely change as soon as the course opens its doors again. I plan to update my list when Sagebrush reclaims it's place high on the list.

I expect Sagebrush to be back for 2018, but we will not see the Kananaskis courses back until at least 2020. After the devastating floods of 2013, restoration efforts began this summer with completion expected in 2018. One, if not both of the Kananaskis courses will almost certainly be back on the list shortly after reopening. Dundarave has fallen out of the top 100 for similar reasons - record snowfalls the winter before last killed much of the grass on the course. Like Kananaskis, expect Dundarave to sneak back into the top 100 in the future, when conditions recover.

Washed away in the 2013 floods, Kananaskis has an anticipated 2018 reopen

I do intend on solidifying a top 100 list as my fixed goal, but will continue to update my blog as new/restored courses find their way back into the top 100. Since I intend on completing the top 100 before a 2022 list is released, I will likely end up ultimately using the 2020. Until that time, I will use the most accurate list to date, which is the current (2016) list.

As I enter the 4th year of my bachelor's degree and prepare for national/licensing exams, my blog progress will likely slow. I plan to chip away at posts, but will not have significant writing time until the semester nears an end. Thank you for continued support and interest in my adventures. Stay posted for what's to come!

'Til next time, keep your stick on the ice!

The Golfing Canuck

Friday, 29 July 2016

Riviera & LACC

Although I promised to supplement my Pete Dye GC/Greenbrier post with Valhalla/Victoria National, I have decided to hold off on those courses until I am caught up on Canadian courses and focusing on American posts...

...AND because yours truly has recently completed one of the greatest days a golfer can have: a 36 hole day starting at LA Country Clubs North course, followed by Riviera Country Club. I'm still trying to convince myself that it happened to me, a kid from a city that sits under ice and snow for half of the year, and (fittingly) cares a lot more about hockey than all other sports combined.

The first round at LACC was all the more sweet, since I have had arrangements to play the course twice before, but was denied on both occasions very last-minute for reasons beyond my or anyone else's control. This time my fortunes were different!

Proof that I finally got through the glorious gates at LACC
To make a long story short, it was 100% worth the wait. What a course. What an experience!

As is often written about LACC, the course is built on very hilly terrain with barrancas running through many holes on the course (sometimes more than once on a hole). Having read much about the course, I had an idea what to expect.. I was still not expecting the course to be as hilly as it was!

Holes 3, 4, 6 and 8 are much hillier than pictures can capture. That being said, I'll try to show the severity of the 6th. This short par 4 is on my short list of the best par 4s I've ever played (every bit as good as #10 at Riviera). From the tee the green is not visible, but can be reached if you take an aggressive line down the right (over the small bunch of trees in the foreground).

Dramatic drop from the tee on the reachable 6th
The layup area over the hillside to the left is generous, but leaves a devilish approach to a very narrow green. Its simply one of the world's great short par 4s... my playing partners all agreed!

Almost every green on the course is fantastic. Multiple tiers on the 9th green come to mind immediately, as well as the reverse redan 11th, tricky 12th, and nervy 14th. The tiny par 3 15th could potentially play under 100 yds for the US Open if a front pin position is used, and I sure hope this is the case. The green is most similar to the 6th.. not severely sloping, but extremely shallow (depending on pin position). At 100 yds it is no pushover!

I also thought #17 was a terrific hole - a tough, long and narrow par 4 with plenty of bunkers and a barranca running down the right. The approach puts Gil Hanse's stunning bunkering on display.

17th green
One of very few weaker points on the course is the 18th. With the tees back for the US Open it will be a very long finisher, but has no real distinguishing features. I wouldn't say its a bad hole, but I felt as though it was an underwhelming conclusion to an outstanding round of golf.

There was hardly time to catch my breath as I grabbed a sandwich for the short drive over to Riviera. Speaking of lunch at LACC, the clubhouse was closed for renovations, but the halfway house is the among the best I've had the pleasure of stopping in at. I highly recommend the tuna salad sandwich with a cactus cooler.

The Riviera Country Club needs little introduction. It has been a fixture on the PGA Tour for decades, and has hosted a number of majors, although none since the 1995 PGA Championship. The course is always among the top courses in America, and at the time of my round was ranked #57 in the world.

I made it just in time to tee off, and was happy to stripe a drive from the famous elevated tee near the even more famous clubhouse. I visited the club a few months prior to watch the Northern Trust Open, but was still surprised by the depth of the bunker fronting the 1st green. The bunkering on the entire course is world class. There isn't a single hole on the course that doesn't have at least 1 jaw-dropping deep bunker.

The intimidating deep bunker short-left of the 2nd green
The entire property the course is built on is painfully flat, lacking natural features to work with. The only assistance offered by the land is the hillside on the north-west side of the course, and the barranca running through the south side of the land. The first 5 holes benefit from the hillside on the north side, playing up and down it 4 times.

The 6th is one of few holes on the course with no aid from nature, but Thomas' work here is spectacular. The small bunker in the middle of the green is as famous as the course itself. Having a temporary green on this hole was the biggest disappointment of the day. This must be the best example of Thomas making something from nothing.

Holes 7 and 8 bring the barranca into play, while 9 comes back to the north hillside. I was surprised how uninviting the left fairway is on the dual-fairway 8th; the right fairway seems more welcoming, and sets up a better angle for the approach. Either way, it is a really cool hole.

When dreams come true....
The 10th is as good as everyone says it is. Mesmerizing. It is hard to choose a target because there appears to be even less fairway than there actually is. In an attempt to hit it just past the green on the left side, I found the large left bunker short of the green. With the golfing gods smiling down upon me, I flushed the 60 yard bunker shot to 8 ft, and made one of the most memorable birdies I will ever have.

While the barranca running through the 11th isn't really in play, it can wreak havoc on the 12th and 13th holes. Both are awesome, long par 4s. The bunkers on the 14th are deeper than they look on TV, as is the fairway bunker on 15 (which I made the mistake of entering.. 1 shot penalty!). The 15th green doesn't get as much attention as it should; it is really good, and hard to read.

The 16th is one of the world's prettiest short par 3s. The most striking characteristic of this hole is that it is surrounded by trees not found on the rest of the course. It is like stepping into a bubble for a short while. SO cool. The bunkers here are also among Thomas' best, and the green is delightfully tiny.

Some of the best bunkering I've ever seen, at the par 3 16th
The 17th is a strong 5 which is almost unreachable. I say 'almost' only because I watched Rory hit a 310 yard second shot to 15 ft when I was here a few months ago to watch the PGA.. thats what it takes to hit the green in 2. The right greenside bunker is unimaginably deep. I almost couldn't see my playing partner who found the bunker. It is incredible architectural work on land that offers the architect nothing.

#18 is one of the best parts of the property for natural features. The famous uphill tee shot is not very intimidating if you trust your driver, but can be an automatic double bogey for those who don't.

World-renowned tee shot at #18
The trees to the right creep into play for the approach unless you really favor the left side of the fairway (which doesn't necessarily leave an easier approach). It truly is one of the great finishing holes in golf. A fitting conclusion to a dream day of golf!

Everyone always wants to know - which course is better, LACC or Riveria? Here's my quick take:

Natural landscape/quality of natural features - LACC > Riviera
Use of natural features/maximizing the land - Riviera > LACC
Playing conditions - LACC > Riviera (Riviera was far more green and visually appealing, but the kikuyu is a pain in the backside for anyone who isn't used to it.. it really does impact your shot selection)
Bunkering - Riviera > LACC ... although this is marginal and completely subjective.. both are absolutely awesome
Atmosphere - Riviera is world-class... but LACC is second to none.
1st hole/opening stretch - Riviera > LACC
18th hole/closing stretch - Riviera > LACC
Short par 4 - LACC 6th > Riviera 10th
Long par 3 - LACC 11th > Riviera 4th
Short par 3 - LACC 15th = Riviera 16th
Overall par 3s - Riviera > LACC
Short 5 - LACC 8 > Riviera 1
Long 5 - LACC 14 = Riviera 17
Green complexes - LACC > Riviera (With the exception of #6 at Riviera, WOW)

Take all of that as you may! If I had to choose which one to play again, I would choose to play them both. George C. Thomas is easily among my favorite architects.. What a day!

'Til next time, keep your stick on the ice!

The Golfing Canuck