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What Makes a Great Course?

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What Makes a Great Course?


10th-from-clubhouse at Red Mountain.jpg

10th from clubhouse at Red Mountain


As a golf journalist for the past 25 years, I have been very fortunate enough to have played on some great courses here in Asia and across the Middle East. 


Looking back, I often wondered what actually makes a great 18 holes?


Perhaps on the global platform, we would expect Augusta or Pebble Beach to get near the top, however closer to home we also are blessed with some memorable experiences too.


So, what do I think gets my juices going when I remember a good golf club? 


I think firstly their location has a lot to do with it, and thankfully many 18 holes are created out of some spectacular plots of land. 


Spectacular Locations



7th tee shot at Nirwana Bali Golf Club


The Greg Norman 18 holes at the now closed Nirwana Golf Resort in Bali springs to mind. You could not help but marvel at the beauty of teeing off on their par 3 with your ball flying across the sea up to a raised green with a temple in the background at sunset!


For golf vacationers we all wish to find a different style of set up that we cannot replicate back home. Therefore, if you are a German you don’t come all the way to Asia to play through 18 holes lined by a pine forest. 


However what fun to experience banana trees and pineapples growing in the rough and lively monkeys roaming around the fairways.


No one finds playing on basically a couple of flat fields exciting, so I believe elevations, undulating greens, water hazards and well-placed bunkers add to the mix to create a great round. And let’s not forget the quality of the course set up and the maintenance are vital as well.


Facilities including a good club house with restaurants and bars for that après round of drinks or a meal with your mates is important. So also, are the staff who make you feel special, and of course in most Asian courses the smiling female caddies who definitely can enhance the golfing experience.


All countries have an invisible premier league of special golf clubs? 


In Thailand for fun, location, course condition and a golfing challenge, I would include Red Mountain in Phuket, Grand Prix in Kanchanaburi and Banyan in Hua Hin as my personal favorites.


It is all subjective, so what top three Thai courses would you include on your bucket list?


Mike Bridge a golf journalist.


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1 hour ago, Thaivisa Golf said:

The Greg Norman 18 holes at the now closed Nirwana Golf Resort in Bali springs to mind.

Stayed and played there early 2000s. Sorry to hear now closed.

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A nice view is good, but in reality the ease of negotiating the course while pulling a cart, the snack cart rolling through as needed, and of course the Tee boxes being rotated so that there are no big giant divots where you need to place your tee and ball.

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There are many factors which make a great golf course. With St. Andrew's Old Course, it reeks of tradition. Visually, only the 17th and 18th have appeal. Much of the time, one can't even see where they are going, it's teeing off and aiming at various landmarks.

Pine Valley in America is rated the world's #1 golf course. It's an example of penal architecture, there are no bailout positions. One is hitting to islands of fairways and greens, with intervening wastelands of pine barrens. The standing bet is no-one can break 80 on their first try.

I quite like Greg Norman courses. One gets rewarded for length and accuracy, and many of his greens are shaped so a good iron shot will feed towards the hole.

Conversely, I don't think it is possible for an amateur to enjoy a Peter Thomson design. He likes unraked wildernesses, and I doubt he has ever designed a green that does not feed an incoming ball away from the hole. Or a bunker with a shallow lip. Buried elephants.

Stanley Thompson courses in Canada are an interesting concept. He mixes up the designs, so the first 9 will be played in forest settings, and the second 9 will be meadowland or watercourses. As far as visually stunning goes, Kananaskis near Calgary IMO will beat anything else on the planet.

In Thailand, my vote goes to Santiburi in Chiang Rai. Designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr., it is target golf combined with visual intimidation. Hit the target, fairway or green, and one is rewarded. Get out of position on either, it takes a lot of skill and imagination to recover. A lot of design similarities to the Old course of the National Golf Club in Melbourne, which I regard as one of the great courses.


I haven't seen much of the southern courses, I remember Eastern Star and Burapha. Neither got my heart fluttering.

Edited by Lacessit
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I think it depends on your handicap. High handicappers would like wide fairways with lack of hazards and out of bounds. Accessible greens with not much undulation. Low handicappers would like a more challenging course.

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I like courses where you cant really see other holes, only the hole u play. Makes u feel like you are the only one out there. But scenery is important.


Any course that bans those leaf blowers gets my vote.


Royal melbourne for the greens and history.


Cypress Point for the scenery and condition.


The National outside melbourne for the joy of being able to finish without getting blown off the mountain


Cape Kidnappers in nz is stunning as well as Kauri Cliffs.

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49 minutes ago, Rdrokit said:

I think it depends on your handicap. High handicappers would like wide fairways with lack of hazards and out of bounds. Accessible greens with not much undulation. Low handicappers would like a more challenging course.

There's a course near Auckland in New Zealand which fits that description, widest fairways I have ever seen. Almost impossible to miss them.

OTOH, closer to home some of the fairways of Gymkhana in Chiang Mai are tighter than a duck's bum.

If one gets the tee shot right, the most rewarding drive is over the Bow River at Banff in Canada. Right in front of the Banff Hotel windows, with dozens of people watching at any time of day. Intimidating to step on the tee, exhilarating when the drive soars over the river.

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