The golf course is unique, and all attempted copies pale into insignicance. It is 'in your face'- it is very intimidating. I thought it was also extremely fair, but you need to be good enough to hit straight and carry the ball a good distance. If there is any repitition at Pine Valley, it is the course asking you to commit to long carries over sand and water. Having said that- there are no two holes alike. There is variation in direction, length and the type of holes, but each hole is a stringent test of your golfing ability. Poor shots are punished horribly- this is not the place to play stroke rounds...
But good shots are rewarded. The greens have plenty to command your attention, but are not overdone, and rolled well. Some of the bunkering surrounding the greens, however is diabolical. There is one devilishly small, deep, pot bunker at the front of the short par 3 tenth hole that sets the standard. It is called 'The Devil's Arsehole'. But is it one of many. Even on the same hole there would be a handful of bunkers that many would never get out of!!
If there is a theme at Pine Valley, it is islands. Each tee, fairway, and green is inevitably an island in a sea of sand, trees and undergrowth. Each shot requires a controlled carry to the target island!
There are many famous holes at Pine Valley, and no weak ones. The course runs out at only 6540 yards for a par 70 course off the regular tee (compared to 7101 from the tips), but it is all carry and plays significantly longer. The course rating off the regular tees was an amazing 153! Each hole has it's own distinct personality.
Favourite holes include:
- hole 2- a 355 yard par with island fairway. The shot to the elevated green over the sand is intimidating. Welcome to Pine Valley! Ten out of ten!
- hole 3- a 181 yard par 3- all carry..
- hole 4- a 438 yard par 4 requiring a carry over sand to the top of the ridge, and then a long shot down the hill to the green
- hole 5- an uphill all carry par 3 measuring 219 yards over water and sand- hit the front half of the green and it rolls back off! One of my favourite holes ever!
- hole 7- par 5, 573 yards. Perhaps the truest par 5 I have ever seen. The tee shot is extremely tight, with fairway framed by pine trees both sides, and sand to carry to hit the fairway. The second shot needs to carry more sand than the Sahara desert! This area is called Hell's half acre, and unless you hit a very good tee shot, you will have no chance of reaching the second island of fairway in two. But if you do, you need to carry more sand..
Hole 7 requires three very decent shots to hit the green in regulation. I've never seen anything like it. Loved it!
- hole 8 is a short par 4 at 314 yards, but it has a very small, very well protected green. It's a fascinating hole, but it gets better- there are two greens!
- hole 9 is a strong par 4 with another enforced carry off the tee. It measures 422 yards, and also has alternative greens. Very cool!
- hole 10 is a short par 3 with teeth. Measuring only 142 yards the green is surrounded by some nasty bunkers, including the crudely named 'Devil's Arsehole'. This is one of the best par 3's I have seen.
- hole 13 is known as one of the best par 4's in the game. It is long at 442 yards, and requires a long strong tee shot, to gain a position where it is practical to consider the downhill sliding approach over sandy waste to a right to left, almost redan like green.
- hole 14 is a change up. It is sharply downhill- a 187 yard par 3 over water. It is a gorgeous looking hole, and my only birdie of the day.
- hole 15 is a long uphill par 5 which narrows the further you progress up the hill to the green. The tee shot is an uncomfortably long carry over water, but the real question is whether you can hit 3 long very straight balls uphill 574 yards. And is you nearly succeed the front of the green has a false front and will send the seemingly good back to try again...
- hole 17 is only 339 yards and is a par 4. It asks for an decent tee shot over the sandy waste to set up a short approach to a green which is tucked up in the sandhill to the right. It is only a short iron, but it needs to be accurate. Great hole!
- hole 18 is the appropriate closing hole to the best course in the world. At 425 yards it is long- but it plays longer. The tee shot must carry the obligatory sandy waste, but the approach must carry water and hit an elevated green with 5 yawning bunkers set in the bank in the front of the green. And pine trees each side of the fairway 'pinch' the airspace just short of the green. It takes two very healthy strikes to hit this green in regulation.
Pine Valley has been regarded as the best course in the world ever since ratings began. Nothing else compares. Pine Valley is a private members club and not generally accessible by the general public
Peter Wood is the founder of The Travelling Golfer – click the link to read his full review.
Pine Valley is one of those rare things you do in your life that you have heard so much about before doing it and it still blows your expectations out of the water. Golf in its purest form!
Pretty much the best set of Par 3s and short Par 4s on the planet. Not a repetitive hole and to split this and Shinny is hard. But PV doesn’t give in to bad golfers (unashamedly so) and if you aren’t playing well or aren’t good enough then look out. An amazing experience to stay over if you can, as well as taking in the replica short course. So far on the tally of greatness it’s PV 5, me zero..... the course just continually tempts you from the first shot. You want to play conservative but even then need to execute perfectly - all day long. A true testament to low handicapper golf. Well done Crump.
After dreaming of playing Pine Valley for 15 years, I finally got the chance to play this great course in October 2019. A close friend extended me an invitation to join him to play Merion East Course and Pine Valley on consecutive days. He was invited to play these courses.
I was given less than a week’s notice to travel to Philadelphia. After re-arranging all my work schedule and client meetings, I was on my way to Philadelphia. We stayed in downtown Philadelphia. The following day our wonderful host played with us at Merion. The weather was glorious and I understood why Merion is ranked 12 in the World and has held numerous US Opens.
The following day, our Merion host and a Pine Valley member had arranged for us to play Pine Valley at 2.30 pm. We were due to meet for a leisurely lunch and use the range facilities before tee off. The weather forecast for the day was dreadful and there was a chance that our round was going to be cancelled. Our thoughtful host, changed our tee off time to 11am to try and beat the afternoon thunder storms. At 7.45 am on the morning we got a call from the host to say that there was still a risk of us not being able to finish the round with the newly arranged 11 am start. We were asked to make our way to Pine Valley for a 9 am tee off time. I had one of the quickest showers, no breakfast and had to get ready and leave our down town hotel within 20 minutes. The uber journey took us 50 minutes and we arrived at Pine Valley at 8.55m. Due to the expected bad weather in the afternoon the course was very busy that morning. The host and the course superintendent managed to squeeze us in for a 9.10 am tee off from the 10th,. No time to warm-up at the range nor hit a few practice putts. We changed into our golf shoes and were driven straight to the 10th tee. It certainly not the way I had planned to play Pine Valley.
The 10th is a short par three. Miraculously, my tee shot just rolled off the back of the green and I managed to two put from the fringe for a par. That kind of settled my nerves. But it never was easy from then on. I have played just over 30 of the World’s Top 100 courses. I would say, Pine Valley along with Beth Page Black must be the hardest courses I have played. The fairways were like carpets and the green complexes were magnificent and scary at the same time. The course is full of waste bunkers everywhere. As many writers have claimed before, Pine Valley does not have a weak hole.
The course is in the middle of a large expanse of wooded land. The whole place is tranquil and you rarely see two greens from any spot. One of the quirks of Pine Valley is that you never rake the bunkers. You just brush the sand with your feet once you have played your shot. Another point worth mentioning is the concept of caddies double bagging. This seems to be a common practice in the US whereby one caddy carries two bags. Though it seemed an odd way to play, it certainly was a unique experience.
My friend and I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Merion and Pine Valley members for hosting us. It truly was a memorable experience for us.
Pine Valley has had many reviews which explain the holes, the history and the club. For me as a professional its the challenge of Pine Valley that I look forward to. We have been fortunate to play here the past four years staying in the rooms situated upstairs in the clubhouse which are old school comfortable which is a blessing after 36 holes a day. The course itself is a test of nerve and shotmaking. The fairways are actually relatively wide but if you miss the one piece of advice I received on my first day is to take your medicine and pitch out otherwise you run the risk of racking up a cricket score! Club selection for your approach shots is pivotal to scoring well, the greens except 8 and 17 are large and the ball tends to run away from the flag than towards it. There are many great holes but my favourites are hole 2 a shortish par 4 that requires a straight drive before a second shot to an elevated green set about 50 yards above the player. The green itself is incredibly undulating and it’s easy to find yourself on the wrong side of the slope. The 8th which has two green complexes (The left green is the day to day green) starts with a blind tee shot which aims the player towards the left side of the fairway which is actually the best line in to the green. The safe tee shot is down the right but this leaves the player having to hit the approach shot across this narrow green from a hanging lie. A deep bunker protects the right side of this green which is virtually impossible to recover from. Another bunker short of the green swallows the under hit approach and left of the green are a couple of narrow traps that you can barely stand in! The green itself is set over three levels with a narrow back shelf….8 is a truly brilliant hole! Onto the back 9, 13 is one of the best par 4 holes in the world a long hole that pushes the golfer away from the green from the tee (This is an ongoing feature of PV the tiger line taken from the tee will leave you a shorter and easier approach shot) leaving a long approach shot to the large green set below the player. My nemesis though is hole 15 a long uphill par 5 that really has no room to land a second shot…you would be better laying back with your second shot leaving a short iron to the green. The green has a huge tier in the front third section that hinders any kind of running shot and if you do fly it all the way beware of going long as its dead! I have played this hole 21 times now and made one par on my 15th attempt! Finally hole 17 which now has a new back tee is cracking short uphill par 4 to a green set above the player. Anything short will find sand (No rakes at PV so you need a decent sand game to extricate yourself from the traps) Anything long will result in a bogey or worse! The green slopes from right to left and from back to front so club selection is vital. All in all Pine Valley keeps you concentrated from hole 1 to 18 and although its a demanding course it rewards patience, accuracy and shotmaking which is not a bad thing. I agree with other reviewers that rankings are subjective but for me it would be hard to find anywhere better than Pine Valley.
What more can be said about PV? It is one-of-a-kind and truly deserving of its label as the #1 course in the world.
PV has not been the #1 course in the world on this site for some time and having played it for the first time last summer I completely agree and suggest #2 is too high. The course is tunnelled visioned and claustrophobic with too many trees and shrub clutter. The club seems to be obsessed with confining every hole to its own linear corridor. It must be the only top ranked course in America that hasn't properly managed its arboreal inventory and opened up sight lines. PV may have a stronger cumulative collection of holes than any other course in the world, but too many leaves cloak the playing corridors.
Pine Valley was created by George Crump, who purchased the property in 1912. Crump had never designed a golf course before, but collaborated with several of the Golden Age architects (Colt, MacKenzie, Wilson, Thomas, Travis, MacDonald, Flynn to name a few), who most likely recognized the sandy soil, rolling terrain, windswept native grass and pines as ideal for a golf course that could play year long. Tragically, Crump's health and finances declined during the years the course was built, ultimately dying before it was completed.
Nothing really prepares you for when you get through the gate and make your way to the clubhouse. There's a sense of surrealism that seizes upon you as you enter those gates. Realizing where you are, and how fortunate you are to be there, was very poignant to me, which added to the wonder and splendor of the place. The clubhouse and staff are all friendly and down to earth, making you feel as welcome as if you were at your own home course. It's about the golf here, not about pomp, prestige or anything else. Caddies refer to the members by first name and the members know the names of their kids, cracking jokes about this and that throughout the round. I instantly felt comfortable, all while staying in awe the whole time.
On to the course. While I was determined to stay objective in my thoughts, I quickly realized there was no need; it's as good as they say. The collaboration, and what Crump incorporated from it, resulted in the finest test in golf that calls upon the depths of all your golfing acumen and fortitude to manage it. The course blends the penal, strategic and heroic design philosophies very well, and all can be seen throughout. There simply is not a weak hole and in fact, every hole is all-world. The terrain, variety, visuals, are ideal. While difficult, it's fair and great shots are rewarded. Great shots are also demanded and I can say I hit some of the best shots of my life during that round. I also hit some of the worst, either from fatigue, intimidation, difficulty of the shot, or a combination thereof. The course's capacity to draw these shots out of you is one of several ways in which the rounds, holes and shots here become immortalized in your memory. The visuals, and how they're revealed as you advance towards the green, are outstanding, which evoke inspiration, intimidation and temptation, yet provide strategic options and reward course knowledge. One of the more surprising aspects is how difficult it was to lose a ball. Most wayward shots were found and there was a realistic chance for recovery. It's also great for match play because of the distinct challenges and the different ways each hole can be played depending on how your tee shot ends up and how hazards are handled. Finally, the routing is impeccable, accommodating the diverse terrain, which in turn produces a diversity of holes and play.
In the golf pecking order of ultimate greatness -- the name Pine Valley resonates as the first among equals. It is the "Citizen Kane" of golf courses. When rankings of the global best layouts are spelled out -- it is the New Jersey-based club which nearly always claims the top spot and rightfully so.
Founded in 1913 by a group of amateur golfers -- Pine Valley was the brainchild of Philadelphia hotelier George Crump. Crump wanted to create a course clearly beyond all others. At Pine Valley he insisted there be no parallel holes -- no two holes going in the same direction and that all clubs in one's bag would be called upon to provide top tier execution. Crump died before Pine Valley was finished and was eventually holes #12 thru #15 were completed by the efforts of Hugh and Alan Wilson from nearby Merion Golf Club outside of Philadelphia. The contributions of other noted architects over the years reads like a who's who among the giants in the golf architecture profession.
When one hears the name Pine Valley the quick association often references the wild and wooly nature of the grounds that exist beyond the finely prepared turf areas where play should take place. Wayward shots can result in particularly high scores although in nearly all cases fairway widths are considerable.
The strength of the course is twofold. First its all-star grouping of holes -- richly varied requiring the fullest range of skills to play them. At Pine Valley the player must adjust constantly -- shaping shots as called upon -- flighting the ball to achieve the proper marriage between accuracy and distance.
The most underrated aspect deals with the vexing putting surfaces. When the greens are at full speed and the course is playing firm and fast it takes a herculean effort to place the ball in the proper position in order to maximize one's score. While the greens are not at the level of such American stalwarts as Oakmont, Oakland Hills / South, Augusta National and Winged Foot / West -- the ones found at Pine Valley are clearly an impressive lot -- varying in pitch, size and playing angles to overcome.
Arguably, Pine Valley has one of the game's grand starting holes. The dog-leg right plays just under 440 yards and it invites the bold play from the tee. The prudent play is to simply keep the ball in play and avoid biting too much off of the dog-leg. The approach faced portends what the player will encounter time after time -- precision is richly rewarded -- indecision and doubt will suffer appreciably. When the pin is placed in the most rear section of the 1st -- it takes a golfer with supreme confidence and unerring nerve to hit an approach all the way to the back.
As mentioned -- although the playing corridors are sufficiently wide enough -- it is the constant thought that poor execution of any serious type will pay a huge price.
The quartet of short par-4's at Pine Valley are all tour de force holes. The 2nd at 368 yards is a gem -- the beautifully contoured green sitting atop a small rise of land with punishment awaiting the misplayed shot -- either off the tee or during the approach. The 8th is one of golf's grand short holes -- featuring two greens -- the second being added not many years ago by architect Tom Fazio. When the original left green is in play the narrowness of the green makes it critical for the player to gauge the flight of the ball and yardage correctly. Birdie is possible -- so is double-bogey -- or more. The 12th at just under 340 yards is a 90-degree dog-leg left and it attempts to seduce the player in going for the aggressive play at the tee. Pity the poor soul who gets taken in and tries to vainly accomplish a result that is best carried out with a far wiser choice in hitting to the far right side and providing the best approach angle. At the 17th -- the 345-yard hole -- is another that calls upon placement off the tee followed by a well-played approach to a marvelously positioned green that sits above the fairway.
Pine Valley has only two par-5 holes -- each is stellar. The 7th is noted for "hell's half acre" a wasteland of sand that cuts off the fairway and requires the player to successfully negotiate its dreaded expanse. At the 15th you play in the opposite direction from the 7th -- the fairway becoming narrower and narrower as you approach the green.
The foursome of par-3 holes is also vintage stuff. The 3rd at 198-yards features a sand engulfed target. The 5th - named as the hole where only "God can make a three" is terrifying for the player unable to hit it archer-like straight from the tee to a green 238 yards away and almost all uphill. The short 10th at 161 yards -- with its solitary deep pit frontal bunker -- the devil's asshole -- that can swallow up a player for eternity. And capped off with the 15th at 220 yards -- played from an elevated tee to a green sternly protected by a water hazard.
The lone real issue with Pine Valley is the amount of tree growth that took place during the 1950's and 1960's. In its original form -- Pine Valley was free of trees -- the overall scene stark -- layered with immense sandy areas scattered all around. The profusion of trees only served to obscure the character of the land and the holes themselves. The desire to "open" up the course has been an ongoing matter and clearly has been an immense aid to bringing to full effect the nature of what Crump originally envisioned. The resulting improvement in the overall health of the turf has also been an added by-product of note.
As a New Jersey resident I have always taken pride in the fact that golf's top course is located in the Garden State -- my home. Despite New Jersey's small size the most noted golf course certainly in the United States -- and save for the likes of The Old Course at St. Andrews -- the most noted globally -- is often shrouded in shadows because so little of the course has ever been shown on television save for the likes of a Shell's Wonderful World of Golf episode and in hosting the 1936 and 1985 Walker Cup Matches. Pine Valley remains a scintillating golf design justifiably revered for the consistent manner in which it has separated the pretender from the true contender who walks its grounds.
Like Zeus who reigns above all others from Olympus in the lore of mythology -- Pine Valley resides in its own pantheon -- a monument to its founder who wanted to create something no one would ever forget. It remains unforgettable -- a vintage incomparable masterpiece.
By M. James Ward
Perennially ranked as the #1 golf course in the world, Pine Valley has it all. While many courses have some or many of the elements outlined below, none have the distinct combination of them all: A visionary founder, an extraordinary routing, the unparalleled pedigree of its designers, privacy, perfectly maintained fairways, true greens, forced carries off every tee, the difficulty that the waste areas cause when a golfer is off the fairway or green, the risk/reward options available, a mix of short and long holes, the membership, the practice facility, the caddies, the natural terrain, the intangibles of the location and the fact that is in New Jersey!
John Sabino is the author of How to Play the World’s Most Exclusive Golf Clubs
Pine Valley. . . Where to start. I believe when reviewing PV one must first state, and understand, the level it is being rated at, and the courses it is being ranked against. PV appears at #1 in the vast majority of magazine, online, forum and book review lists. That means it is up there with the other giants of the game - Augusta, Cypress Point, St Andrews, Muirfield, Royal County down etc. etc... I like to bear these places in mind while reviewing PV and compare in my mind the holes on those courses, the shots you're required to play, the game plan you need to plot your way around, the surroundings the course enjoys, and so on and so on... I played PV two months ago and, naturally, enjoyed the whole experience thoroughly. However, and this may be a very controversial 'however', I think Pine Valley is overrated. Now, everyone just calm down a minute let me explain.
Rather than recount the many fantastic things that are indeed right and wonderful about Pine Valley, here are the (minor) areas I think it falls down: There's no question that a day at Pine Valley is and will be one of the most treasured, rare, and privileged days of your life for those lucky enough to be invited. From the difficulty and randomness of finding your way past the run down nearby theme park and then over the railroad tracks and into the PV township itself. To the other worldly feeling one feels when in the rustic old clubhouse and locker rooms . . . And the golf course is undeniably breath-taking, with seemingly no 'weak' holes on the property. But for me, something is not quite right. As great as it is, something just doesn't add up. For one I'm not a fan of the course returning to the clubhouse area after just 4 holes. This is detrimental to the overall 'journey' of a round. It also means your approach shots to the 4th green and tee shots from the 5th are likely to be interrupted by the hustle and bustle that goes with the nearby proximity to the clubhouse, valet, car park and main internal driveway. Nit picking this may well be, but we are after all rating something that is (if the other reviews are to be believed) as close to golfing perfection as one can find on this fair planet. You wouldn't expect to find a wonky wheel on a Ferrari 250 GT... Or a fly on the plate of an otherwise blemish free Heston Blumenthal meal, or for that matter a shoddy brushstroke in the corner of a Picasso... Shall I continue?
Since we're discussing the 5th hole, the incredibly difficult uphill par 3, may I mention the ugly tower block 'guest rooms' that stare back at you with contempt and ruin an otherwise picturesque scene. The well documented 'hell's half acre' wasteland that exists immediately in front of the 7th tee hides an otherwise average par 5. 12 is a short par 4 that, were it not at Pine Valley, would be lauded as a very average short 4 par hole, that is equally short on design features and shot values, not to mention aesthetic appeal.. 16 is a fantastic long par 4, yet it somehow feels slightly out of character with the rest of the course – probably down to the completely flat level entry to the green and the vast lake that laps inches away from the right edge of the putting green. Finally we arrive at the 18th hole. An absolutely stunning vista is offered from the raised tee, but what might be a 9 rated hole is spoiled once more by the comings and goings of the main internal road right up by the greenside. Which means, much like on the East course at Wentworth you may find yourself repeatedly backing off from hitting the approach of what will likely be one of the most crucial shots of your round. Or worse still you may find yourself taking a few extra looks at the green before pulling the trigger on that demanding final shot because there is a Chevrolet sitting on the edge of your peripheral vision and your are not quite sure whether it's waiting or about to dart right in front of your 5iron (as well as trying to consider what effect the severe ball below the feet lie will have on the outcome of your shot - whence you finally are able to play it!) Knit picking yes… but these are the stark facts as I see them.
Now you may say that the other great courses of the world have a similar number of tiny blots on their otherwise near perfect copybook. But that is the crux of my argument, how can Pine Valley be held in such esteem at the very top of the pile when it has a similar number of blemishes to its rivals. The otherwise perfect Old Course in St Andrews arguably suffers from a string of ‘samey’ par 4’s on the outward 9, and too many holes that run in the same direction. Similarly Royal County Down has a few too many weaker holes on its back 9, as well as (arguably) too many blind shots. Merion in the United States flirts with roads and residential nuisance on over half its holes, as well as having its fair share of (relatively speaking as ever) weak holes. But, and this is the thing, I don’t believe that Pine Valley’s rivals have any more of these blots than Pine Valley itself does. In fact I’d go so far as to say The Old Course, Muirfield, Royal County and Bethpage Black have slightly less blotting so to speak. I’d also go on to say that the setting / views, the history and the accessibility of these courses to Joe public also elevate said courses further above Pine Valley.
To conclude this short review ( / essay) I’d like to also touch on the subject of shot values, strategy and the sheer buzz you get from playing a golf hole or shot. Let’s say on most courses you have 36 full shots to play. If you rank each shot on these factors I feel somewhere like Bethpage Black ranks far higher than Pine Valley. Having played these two courses on consecutive days I think I’m in a fairly decent position to judge on this point. Without going into too much detail, in purely laymen’s terms I feel Bethpage offered me a far greater number of wow moments as I stood on tees and approach shots. As well as more strategy, more subtlety - an aesthetically more pleasing design. For me Bethpage is the ultimate test, not Pine Valley. The fact that it is the People’s Course only raises it in my regard. Muirfield in Scotland, while a completely different kettle of fish, would return similar rankings for me. With the added bonus of the stunning vistas and the ever changing wind / weather conditions to add into the mix. Ditto County Down and the Old Course. I’d also (sorry, just to rub a bit of salt in the wound to PV aficionado’s) raise the concern of the trees… when Pine Valley was originally conceived and constructed there were about 90% less trees and woodland and the shot variety and strategy would have been vastly different, and in my opinion of a higher value than today. This is a point that baffles me as to why PV is ranked so highly today as so many critics, architects, experts etc. bemoan trees on a golf course and lament them as being detrimental to a good layout and good shot values and even detrimental to the overall aesthetics of a golf course experience… so why then do these same experts rank it so highly? I’m more inclined to agree with the Architects Choice Magazine Top 100 that has St Andrews Old Course as their #1 with Cypress Point at #2 and County Down, Royal Dornoch, Muirfield, North Berwick and Kingsbarns all in their top 20. It’s nigh on impossible to assign actual rankings to courses simply because of the sheer number of variables when making the decision. I prefer the grouping of courses in categories (as used to be the chosen rankings method when Golf World started their rankings in the UK many years ago). On this basis I would have a Category 1 or ‘A’ group as follows: St Andrews Old Course County Down Muirfield North Berwick Kingsbarns Bethpage Black I would place Pine Valley in my ‘B’ category list of courses, together with the likes of Royal Dornoch, National Golf Links of America, Sunningdale New, Loch Lomond.
As a final passing thought I would like to question the qualification and validity of George Crump as a course designer / Architect. He had relatively little experience or training prior to setting out his ‘masterpiece’ (his only ‘piece’ I’ll have you know). All the other courses at the top of the pile have been set out by legends of the game, most of whom have numerous other examples of their genius in the world’s best rankings lists. Tom Morris, Alistair McKenzie, Harry Colt, A W Tillinghast, Donald Ross – legends of their profession, all boasting hugely successful and varied portfolios. I ask this final question; name one other genius in his or her chosen area of expertise that only ever had one creation? Ferrari and Marranello didn’t stop after their first GT creation 1948. Da Vinci’s work didn’t begin and end with the Mona Lisa. More importantly all of these artists, in having multiple creations, were able to improve over time through trial and error, through learning different techniques and through learning from their contemporaries, trying to emulate or better them. And in the case of the course designers mentioned above - visiting and learning from the great courses of the world and each other. Tilly, Dr McKenzie, C B MacDonald all spent time in the UK, spent time exchanging theories and learning from Old Tom Morris, studying and playing The Old Course, North Berwick and many more. Very little of which Crump undertook before working on Pine Valley.
Don’t get me wrong, Pine Valley is one of the greatest golf courses in the world, no question, I just feel that it should reside somewhere at the bottom end of the top 10 and not the lofty position it has commanded for so many years. I’m sure many will disagree, hopefully the odd eccentric or young upstart may agree…? There you have it. Pine Valley – 10th best course in the world. Now, who wants a cup of tea?
A number of the nit-picking observations are purely based on the gentleman’s experience and his basis for comparison. As Crump drafted the routing, the thought of having valet parking, hustle and bustle at the main entrance were probably not even factors in his mind 100 years ago when he drew up the 4th and 5th holes. Not many people have an issue returning to the clubhouse after the 4th hole, especially Mr. Woody Platt! Bethpage may be the most interesting design; however, golf is more than just championship play. Championship courses are rarely “fun” (and vice versa). The most difficult thing to do is create a great championship course that is also fun, venues like Cypress Point, Merion, Sand Hills and National Golf Links of America come to mind. A number of the reviewer’s criticisms of Pine Valley did not exist when the course was built and are not the fault of the designer (eg: valet parking and traffic distractions). Furthermore, if cars bother you while golfing, then let’s get real here – more people have seen the Loch Ness Monster than invasive traffic issues at Pine Valley.
Every course has its flaws, but every list must have a number 1. Pine Valley itself has long been viewed as an unbeatable monster, the world’s hardest inland layout. However, suggestions that it’s just a house of horror miss the mark widely. There is no rough in the accepted sense, just trees, scrub and huge sand areas. There are, perhaps, more death-or-glory shots here than on any other golf course. Pine Valley also presents numerous strategy challenges within its rigours. Most people who play at the Old Course for the first time probably won’t remember every hole because many of the holes at the end of the property blend together and don’t offer a lot in terms of excitement. Most people who play at Royal County Down for the first time probably won’t remember every hole because you can’t see about 6 of them. You will remember every hole at Pine Valley even years after you play it. I’m the first to admit that you have to play a course a number of times to gain a full appreciation for it.
I can sense that the reviewer seems to think that Pine Valley was only created by George Crump. That couldn’t be further from the truth, and the fact that it had contributions (or varying degrees) from Walter Travis, Harry Colt, Charles Alison, Alan and Hugh Wilson, William Flynn, George Thomas and Perry Maxwell only further validates why it’s the ultimate layout – it was touched by all of the greatest architects in golf history! It’s somewhat ignorant to bypass the reality that Crump certainly called upon the services of a number of distinguished Golden Age architects. Furthermore, Crump didn’t even complete all 18 holes, the 12th through 15th holes were finalised after his untimely death in 1918.
We’ve therefore proven that Crump did not entirely design Pine Valley. Even though it was the only golf course that he was associated with, I’ll happily answer the question of “name one other genius in his or her chosen area of expertise that only ever had one creation? ”. I welcome the reviewer to read about Mr. Henry Fownes who was the soul designer of Oakmont Country Club. Oakmont was the only course he designed, so if you want to pick on Crump for Pine Valley (which isn’t even valid because the course was clearly designed by multiple people), then let’s not forget about Fownes’ single creation in the Pittsburgh suburbs. The golf world considers OCC as one of the best, despite the absolutely irrelevant fact that it was created by a guy with limited architecture experience. Just because a course wasn’t designed by a Golden Age giant doesn’t mean it can’t be outstanding.
No course presents more vividly and more severely the basic challenge of golf, the balance between fear and courage. Nowhere is the brave and beautiful shot rewarded so splendidly, nowhere is there such a terrible contrast between reward and punishment, and yet, withal, the examination is fair. You could argue that Pine Valley is number 1 in the world because it was built by the architectural dream team.
I take milk in my tea, thanks. Fergal O’Leary
I felt compelled to add some critical knowledge to this review as I did not see it mentioned in any of the responses.
When reviewing a course as venerable as Pine Valley, one should first not only play the course but even more importantly understand the history of the club and the incredible effort and planning involved in designing and creating the greatest golf course in the world.
With that in mind, I need to add a significant tidbit of knowledge to this review as it was stated it was a poor routing decision to bring the course back to the clubhouse after hole #4.
Everyone knows that Crump sadly passed away with only 14 holes constructed (he did not finish holes 12-15)
The REASON that hole 4 takes players back to the clubhouse was because at the time the course was built, Crump had only enough money and time to start by building 14 holes and needed to open for play - thus, he designed the course so that the players could replay holes 1-4 and play an entire 18 and thus would END on hole 4...back at the clubouse!!!
The genius, wherewithal, and determination of this man deserves praise that cannot be overstated.
George Crump and Pine Valley are the stuff of legend