I have like most golfers been enthralled as and when the top list of courses is published by such luminaries as Golf Digest and Golf World..... A combination of votes cast by the chosen select few. I have now played over 1000 courses world wide, left a divot on every continent and a ball in every ocean so whilst on nobodies list of select invitees, I do believe my top ten as having validity in that I have played each and every one of these courses. equally my list is done on one over riding premise..... the enjoyment factor.... not how hard, how many majors the course has held..who designed it but... SIMPLY WHICH DID I ENJOY PLAYING THE MOST. My enjoyment basis is computable by a triumvirate of considerations.......... firstly value for money secondly beauty of the course and location...finally .. the course as a golf challenge..
Why pick 12 and not ten, I will be honest two reasons
it will be easier to put on my 2012 calender and i was struggling to narrow it down to ten
on this basis I commend the following
1. Royal Melbourne
Number one by a country mile.... Two autonomous quality course the East and the West that for competitions such as the Presidents Cup become one the COMPOSITE taking 12 from the west and 6 from the East. this should not intimate that the East is the weaker course... this amalgamation was done simply as a beneficial expedient initially in 1959 for the Canada Cup... now The World Cup to simply avoid the busy roads that cross both courses and facilitate easier logistics for spectators. these courses are simply one of the most fantastic designs on the planet, Something outstanding and exceptional really was inevitable given that many of the earliest members had their origins in St.Andrews and the outstanding natural terrain of the course was so similar the Scottish links dune land. Given the principal architect was the Peerless Dr Alister Mackenzie, Cypress Point and Augusta National would follow for this doyen of he Inter War period. backed up by Alex Russell and Green keeper Claude Crockford.... the 3 wise men produced two masterpieces. When I played besides the outstanding design... in the first book I comment principally on the Greens, definitely the best I have encountered.. Ernie Eels ( 2002) you wont putt on better greens than these all year"... and the Bunkers.... and I found plenty with the strategic placing and careful design.... yet I just were not bothered so enjoyable the contest of man against nature is on this course. it is a 1920's design and does need lengthening.... difficult in view of the original design... but i will watch the 2012 Cup with interest.. they were trying to make it Tiger proof when i visited.... how times change. A full detailed review can be found in the first Social Golfer book.
2. Pebble Beach
Jack Nicklaus famously said " if he had but one round left to play it would be at Pebble. Yes it is that good.... Historic, spectacular,difficult and unique the coast holes in particular are mesmeric.
AND anyone can play it, it is a municipal... OK a bit costly but far easier to get on than St.Andrews for example. A full detailed SG review in new book when I stayed at Pebble Lodge overlooking the 18th and also played Spyglass and Spanish Links.
3. Kauri Cliffs
This my last course I would want to play.... why.... well for Karen and I found the Kauri experience to be the most romantic, idyllic, special golfing week of our life. The Lodge has everything..... Michelin dining, fine wines, super Spa.... the Location is stunning overlooking the Bay of Islands the views are sensational and the course is a bit tasty too... we found the experience here better than its sister course at the Farm at Cape Kidnappers which was also absolutely fabulous. again fully reviewed both in new book.... another reason to buy it guys.
4. Gary Player Country Club
Located in the Sun City Complex....... simply the best place on the planet for a group of guys or couples to visit. This course home of the 12 man annual million dollar challenge has it all. It is always pristine and in immaculate condition. Its Gary Player design has stood the test of time.... 9, 17 and 18 are sublimely outstanding holes that live in the memory. Its sister course the lost city ain't no slouch with the famous crocodile pit either. Again covered both fully in first book. Sun City is a resort any discerning golfer should visit some time.
5. The Emirates Golf Club, Dubai
Today the Emirates may not be considered by some pundits the best even in Dubai, with the Els, Montgomeries, The creek et al exceptional courses.... but when I visited Dubai, I only wanted to play, the original, the one, the iconic Emirates with two equally exceptional tracks. How you can consider building this Course in these conditions in the Desert is a modern day wonder now often replicated across the middle east..... but this the first real Desert course may have been imitated but rarely I believe bettered. again pricey but then everything in Dubai is..... reviewed in The Living the Dream book.
6. Tecina Golf, La Gomera, The Canary Islands
I doubt any where will this appear in any top ten list, why then does it deserve to be in mine then. Those who have the first book, the front cover, is the 4th at Tecina one of 18 spectacular holes on a hillside cliff falling down to the beach. the club house is at the 18th you need a 2 mile journey up the hill to the first tee. Quirky, unique a fair challenge and in fine condition and sensational vistas, I doubt anyone who ever plays here wont want to return. Covered in first book.
7. Flamingo Golf, Monastir, Tunisia
again, I doubt this would appear in any classics listing, but this place is special to me. Allow a bit of indulgence, its where I played my first ever overseas round... won my first ever overseas competition, so the memories are rather special. Tunisia is in my mind a very much neglected golfing oasis on the African med.... the courses are well maintained, superbly designed and compared with the rest of the med, unbelievable value for money often less than £20 per round. golf in the sun don't get any better.
8. The Jockey Club, Hong Kong
This 3 course complex on two islands in Hong Kong Bay is rather special... you can only get there by ferry a rather daunting , intimidating twenty min ride which does give sensational vistas weather permitting. A splendid clubhouse and 3 championship courses await. Great value for money an essentially unique oriental experience, but the golf is challenging and absorbing. reviewed in first book.
9. Golf Du Chateau, Mauritius
once again this may not be considered the best in these islands of nine or ten very special courses. Le Trossuck for one but I ain't played them so this course will pass muster representing them all. It is a superb coastal course designed around plantations and a hillside. The natural beauty of the location is consolidated into each of the 18 holes. Add to that a course that was in as good a condition as any I played this year it was a wonderful prize I won by winning the British Par 3. Reviewed fully with details of more Mauritius golf in The Living the dream Book.
10. Pria Del Rey, Obidus, Portugal
I have found golf in Spain and Portugal to be often very Americanised and theres nowt really wrong with that but it can also extremely costly especially the best courses like Vilamora and Valderrama. I also had until my visit to Obidus every found a true links on the Iberian Peninsula. The Del Rey is a links akin, Pebble and Royal St Georges but certainly in respect of the latter far more sensational vistas. It perhaps only has 2 really truly magnificent holes but is great value for money compared to its southerly more highly rated courses on the Algarve. I thought it was great. again reviewed in the new book.
11. Koolau Golf Club Oahu, Hawaii
If you played the course reputed to be the hardest in the world how can you not include this in your list. Is it that difficult, Yes most certainly but its as spectacular as it is difficult. They say you need as many balls as your handicap... well yes you do, you wont ever forget a round here.Reveiwed in new book.
12. Nailcote Hall, Berkswell, Coventry.
Home of the British Par 3 Championship, this 9 hole course gets in because it is that good as a stand alone challenge. I do not know any of my peers who have not loved this place, its intricate pin placements, its natural beauty.... in my opinion the number one soc golf competition in the world. Tony Jacklin said it were like playing a major championship around a country manor when a tea party was on. Maybe, different and certainly unique but as the professional scores reflect a considerable challenge.
This list has more than a bit of self indulgence in it..and yes it could be seen as a tad pretentious.. but it is A SOCIAL GOLFERS TOP 12, not a Pro Golfer or a Travel or Golf Writers List and I feel it reflects what I and most of my peers would want from a golfing experience...