Some will think me guilty of golf sacrilege or insanity for not rating Newcastle a 6 ball course (though I do note I’m not completely alone in this regard). Other dissenters often cite the difficulty of the course as their primary reason for not rating it so highly. While playability here is a factor, it’s not my primary lament.
Let’s start with the strategic challenge. There are very few tee shots where the golfer stands on the tee and decides how much risk (s)he wants to take on for a rewarding next shot. Instead, the line of charm is one choice only—the one that will keep the ball out of trouble.
And how about the plethora of blind shots? I know all the clichés about them only being blind once, and, yes, with a caddie the golfer will always know the proper line. But nobody will argue that a blind shot is preferable to one with the target in view The other great courses of the world do not have nearly the same number of blind shots as here—eight by my count.
The running approach—one of the finest features of links golf—is taken out of play on fully a third of the approach shots. And there’s nothing special about the greens. There are a few with interesting contours, most notably the 13th, but for the most part they are flat and less than world-class.
Royal County Down is indeed a beautiful piece of land in an equally beautiful setting. In that regard it reminds me of Pebble Beach: a gorgeous canvas on which has been painted a less gorgeous golf course. Like Pebble, Newcastle has some wonderful holes, but also too many ordinary ones. I can think of dozens of courses I’d rather play. I struggled to figure out why it should even be rated as high as five balls, but in the end I relented.
Date: June 03, 2016