Tall Pines Estate
by Wayne Hewitt
Re-released as a free download - July 2017
LINKS CORNER REVIEW
|Reviewed by Mike Nifong
Course type: Tall Pines Estate is a woodland-style course set in a pine forest that is immediately reminiscent of two of its stated antecedents, Augusta National and (especially) Pinehurst #8. [Its relationship to its third stated antecedent, Royal Melbourne, may be less immediately apparent, but is no less valid.">
Historical perspective: In the read-me file that accompanies Tall Pines Estate, Wayne tells us
“Tall Pines Estate is the third design that I have created for the Links series. The first being Kylane Country Club and the second was Autumn Valley. These two courses were just stepping stones to what I have created with Tall Pines Estates (TPE).”
Some pretty fancy stepping stones, I would venture. Kylane (released 4/18/2001) received a 4-star user rating and official review scores of 82 and 83. The first reviewer called it “[t">he best mountain course that I have seen to date.” The second reviewer echoed, “[t">his may be the best of the mountain courses done to date.” Oh, by the way, those reviewers were Lacy Gearheart and James Wood, respectively – do you imagine that either of them would recognize a good course? And Autumn Valley (released 9/29/01) did even better, matching the 4-star user rating, but garnering an LC review score of 94 (from Roger “Alliegator” Worsham, who called it “by far one of the best APCD course[s"> out there… a lifetime keeper”) and the September 2001 Course of the Month Award.
If those little tidbits fail to whet your appetite, consider this angle: two of the courses listed by Wayne as inspirations for TPE, Pinehurst and Royal Melbourne, were also listed by Mike Jones as inspirations for ShadowLands. Does this presage a head-to-head battle between these two APCD giants for the heavyweight-designer crown? [If your answer was yes, you are probably watching too much television, but the situation at least lends itself to some interesting comparisons.">
What is included: Wayne gives us the deluxe package that seems to be de rigueur for the best courses of both the free and pay-to-play persuasions. The read-me file details some of the course history and acknowledges the assistance received from others – the “usual suspects” in this case. The cameo and splash screen are especially striking and the Dexter Gresh-designed hole previews are up to his usual standard – similar in informational content to those he provided for Ardennes Dunes and even more dramatic in appearance, although the flatter perspective on the green slope diagrams makes them a little harder to read (at least for these aging – or is it aged? – eyes). There is also a recorded round, although a forum thread suggested it may not work correctly. [Wayne has made a replacement, and provided a download link, in his response. The new round also includes a .ver file, the absence of which the first time around was presumably the problem.">
The tournament option is quite complete, with excellent crowd planting and a full complement of tournament options. That this option has been so well realized on this course is a significant benefit, because TPE was clearly designed with tournaments in mind, and the crowds really bring it to life.
How it looks: It is hard for me to imagine that anyone could complain about this aspect of Tall Pines Estate. The course is absolutely immaculate in its finish – the grounds crew here would be a credit to any golfing venue. It is also totally in keeping with the influences of Pinehurst and Augusta, both in terms of appearance and in design philosophy.
Texture blending is used to great effect here, especially in the transitions from the rough to the pine straw on the floor of the forested areas. And texture blending is used in a way I have not seen before in the bunkers, where the bottom edges of the lips are blended but the top edges are not. This gives the bunkers a unique appearance, as if they had been formed by giant cookie cutters. It is in this respect, incidentally, that TPE shows the influence of Royal Melbourne – not the Microsoft 2003 version, where it seems to me the blending of the bunker lips is badly misjudged, but the actual course itself, which shows (at least in the photographs I have seen), the same sharply chiseled bunker lips that Wayne has created here. By the way, following Mike Jones’ lead in ShadowLands (a course based on the same type of terrain that is present here), Wayne has also blended the bunker interiors to show the moisture remaining in the bunker wells as the sides dry out.
Those of you who are familiar with Autumn Valley will not be surprised to see that Wayne did not shy away from the use of color here. Extensive flower plantings are visible from every tee box here except for #6 and #17. And rather than limiting his color palette to a few colors throughout, à la Mike Jones, he has used a tremendous range of colors here – sometimes four or five on a single hole. This is an effect for which I generally do not much care, as it has the potential for becoming downright distracting, but I have to say that it actually seems to work here, partly because Wayne has avoided the really saturated colors that tend to clash with their surroundings, and partly because he has created such natural looking plantings. The par-3’s, in particular, are little works of art.
The excellent planting is not limited to the flowers, either. The brushy areas are especially effective, as are the edges of the small ponds. The use of expanses of yellowish grass (similar in appearance to that used by Dominique Bois in Bethpage Black) makes for an attractive contrast as well. And as he did on #13 at Autumn Valley, Wayne has spelled out the course name in shrubbery as well – here, the well-chosen location is behind the green on #18, where it is visible on the approach and from the grandstands behind the clubhouse.
The reported problems with sound scripts in APCD 1.5 do not seem to have created any insurmountable difficulties for the top designers, and Wayne continues that trend here. Sounds are subtle and effective, always present while never calling undue attention to themselves.
An introduction to the course layout:
#1 (Par 4; 398/385/364/353/336 yards; HC 7) A lovely and straightforward opening hole with nice views of the adjacent fairways on both sides. The fairway is not as narrow as it first appears, actually widening out in the 250-270 yard range, but its left-to-right slope may make it more difficult for you to keep your tee shot on the left side for the more favorable approach angle.
#2 (Par 4; 439/420/409/401/393 yards; HC 1) The fairway here is heavily bunkered down the left side, but the further right you go to avoid them, the more the large, deep bunker to the right front of the green comes into play on your approach. The fairway slopes from right to left and conceals the green from the tee; the front of the green also slopes rather sharply back toward you.
#3 (Par 3; 175/166/147/131/127 yards; HC 15) A drive over an attractive pond to a green with a steep bank in front and a deep bunker front right means you do not want to be short off the tee. A pin placement on the left may be safely attacked, but watch out if the pin is on the right.
#4 (Par 5; 540/509/472/466/452 yards; HC 17) An elevated tee looks through a chute to a fairway guarded by bunkers on both sides. The uphill slope probably precludes reaching the green in two from the back, but there is a safe area to the right of the green from which you can execute a short chip shot. In keeping with its handicap, this proved to be one of the easiest holes for the AI golfers.
#5 (Par 4; 429/403/398/377/347 yards; HC 3) The tee-area planting makes this one of the more attractive opening shots in Links. The elevated tee plays to a fairway that ends about 280 yards out, so you must be careful not to use too much club (a 3W generally works well with RTS). The approach will be a 7-8I to an elevated green that slopes back toward you. This was one of the tougher holes for the AI players.
#6 (Par 5; 569/551/536/515/492 yards; HC 5) Your first big choice off the tee, as the fairway is split by a large bunker complex in the 250-300 yard range. Taking the safer left route precludes reaching the green in two; the riskier right route gives you a narrow landing area with water short and long, but the reward for success is a setup for a possible eagle.
#7 (Par 3; 177/168/144/132/122 yards; HC 11) A straightforward tee shot to a kidney-shaped green protected by bunkers front, back, and left. The green slopes from back left to front right.
#8 (Par 4; 465/450/421/391/379 yards; HC 9) A nice view off the tee of a slight dogleg to the right with water down the right side and bunkers toward the end of the landing area on the left; if the wind is at your back, a 3W is the safer choice. The further you go toward the safety of the left side, the more your approach shot to the elevated and tiered green must contend with a deep green-front bunker.
#9 (Par 4; 467/451/438/431/415 yards; HC 13) A longer and narrower variation of #1, with the adjacent fairways visible on both sides, and with the addition of two fairway bunkers. If you can go left and carry the left bunker (which starts about 245 yards out), you will have a much simpler approach shot. The green slopes back toward you, so be sure to use enough club.
#10 (Par 4; 447/410/395/378/363 yards; HC 14) This hole features a segmented fairway with an elevation drop to the second section, so the green is not visible from the tee. A tee shot that avoids the bunkers to the right of the fairway without going too far left gives the best angle of approach to the green, which slopes back toward you. The pond to the left should not be in play unless you really pull your approach.
#11 (Par 3; 205/193/162/154/144 yards; HC 6) A lovely par-3 that plays downhill over a pond to a green located up a steep rise from the water and protected by bunkers front and back.
#12 (Par 5; 552/532/507/499/481 yards; HC 5) A sometimes-reachable par-5 that plays straight ahead and downhill, with fairway bunkers left in the 250-275 yard range and right in the 280-310 yard range and a significant right-to-left slope that may affect your second shot. The approach plays over a stream to a well-guarded green that slopes from the back right to the front left. This was one of the easier holes for the AI golfers.
#13 (Par 4; 313/285/277/267/248 yards; HC 18) A short par-4 that may be reachable from the tee and will certainly tempt you to try. If you miss, your ball will almost certainly find sand right or left, so the percentage play is a lay-up and a wedge shot for an easy birdie attempt.
#14 (Par 4; 403/367/335/307/289 yards; HC 10) Another straight and narrow par-4 between adjacent fairways, but this time with no bunkers at all. The green is tiered downward from back to front.
#15 (Par 3; 144/129/116/111/106 yards; HC 16) The shortest of the par-3’s plays over a brush-filled ravine to a green that slopes back right to front left and is protected by bunkers right and left. Be sure you have enough club to reach the putting surface.
#16 (Par 4; 456/428/419/406/389 yards; HC 4) A dogleg left with a bunker at the end of the landing area on the right. The approach shot, TPE’s most direct echo of Augusta National, is to a green guarded by water on the left and bunkers back and front on the right. The bridge to the left of the green should remind you of something. This turned out to be one of the more challenging holes for the AI golfers.
#17 (Par 4; 410/400/386/379/343 yards; HC 2) A dogleg right with multiple bunkers to the left and a single bunker, which can be carried off the tee, in the 240-255 yard range right. The approach is uphill to a green guarded by a bunker right front. The green itself slopes back right to front left.
#18 (Par 5; 596/551/513/471/440 yards; HC 12) Some people are already calling this the best finishing hole in Links. I will simply say that I cannot think of a better one. From the tee, you are faced with a dogleg right with bunkers in the center of the fairway about 255-305 yards out. The safer play to the left of the bunkers leaves you with no hope of reaching the green in two. If you choose to go right, you must thread a narrow passage between the central bunkers and three more to the right of the fairway, but the payoff is a direct shot of about 250 yards over the lake to the green, and a realistic shot at an eagle.
How it plays: Compared to its named antecedents, I would say that it plays, on average and under the most challenging conditions, maybe four or five strokes tougher than the (converted) Access rendition of Pinehurst #8 or the Microsoft 2003 version of Royal Melbourne, but about three strokes easier than Andrew Jones’ (converted) APCD version of Augusta National 2001. In other words, it is just right. There are plenty of risk/reward opportunities, and while precise shot making is rewarded, the penalty for a mishit or misjudged shot is never inappropriate. This means that you will have a very realistic chance of recovery if your ball lands among the stands of pine trees that dominate the planting. Moreover, although there is a significant yardage penalty on shots hit from the taller grasses, pass-through properties have been appropriately chosen, so that the textures “behave” as you should expect them to. The green slopes provide a realistic balance between challenge and playability on the putting surfaces.
The final three holes provide a near ideal atmosphere for a tournament finish, with two of TPE’s most difficult holes followed up by that “made for television” #18, where you can play it safe to protect a lead or go for broke if you have a stroke or two to make up.
If you are accustomed to playing with the top camera turned on, or to using it to place your aiming marker, let me suggest TPE as the course to wean you from that practice. Not only do the hole previews provide excellent guidance, but this course has such exceptional views off the tees that there are very few holes where setting your aim in the main view will be problematic. In addition to providing a more unobstructed view of this lovely course, playing without the top camera can significantly enhance the reality of your gaming experience.
Performance of the AI foursome (skill level 79.0) was pretty much in line with my own experience. Under b/m/m/m conditions, they were a combined -12 (+3 to -9), hitting 77.5% (69-92%) of the fairways and 68% (22-100%) of the greens, and averaging 26.5 putts (25-28). Under w/f/f/d conditions, they combined for a total of +2 (+4 to -3), hitting 64% (50-71%) of the fairways and 51% (44-61%) of the greens, and averaging 26 putts (25-27).
The bottom line: One of the finest courses ever created for Links, and quite probably the best for tournament play. While I would still give a slight edge to ShadowLands as the best overall computer golfing experience ever (primarily for its innovation and the total immersion it offers), many others may well choose TPE, and it would be hard to argue that either view was wrong. On whichever side of that debate you come down, however, this course would have to be considered essential for any collection.
[N.B. This score is intended for the purpose of facilitating comparison of this course with other Links 2003 courses reviewed by this reviewer. It is specifically not intended for comparison to reviews of Links 2001 courses by this reviewer, for which different scoring criteria were employed, or for similar review scores by other Links Corner reviewers, which may or may not accurately reflect the opinions of this reviewer.">
Overall value: Outstanding. As was the case with ShadowLands, Tall Pines Estate is worth much more than you have to pay for it.
Course Statistics :
Course statistics: Par 72; 5 sets of tees (back- 7185/middle- 6798/forward- 6439/junior- 6169/ladies- 5866 yards); holes are handicapped.
CLIPNOTES by Ben Bateson (ousgg)
Please remember that Clipnote reviews are the opinion of one person and do not constitute an 'Official' Links Corner review of the course.
Fictional, estate course
Hewi’s reputation is beyond reproach. Superb course has followed superb
course from his fingertips. Tall Pines Estate is perhaps the most
conventional of the lot, although that doesn’t make it any less special. It
takes its influences from a lot of American championship courses, most
notably Augusta, Pinehurst and Bay Hill and strives to combine testing golf
with the luxurious aura of a country club. Needless to say, it does this
magnificently: every hole is a cracker, and the spit-and-polish aspects of
the design make for absorbing and effortless golf.
All the right boxes are ticked here. The designer did not feel the need to go way overboard on texture sets or customisation, and the
understated result is perfect. The planting is of a superlative standard, as one would expect, and the niceties such as paths and
houses just look – well – real. I can’t say I’m crazy about the ‘cauliflower’ shape to the bunkers: time after time they spoiled the look of
the course for me.
This course is a strategist’s dream. Every shot has clearly been planned and the set of choices from every tee look equally realistic
and appealing. You could quite easily play Tall Pines Estate a dozen times without taking the same route twice, and that’s the hallmark
of all the best course architects, in real life as well as Links.
Perhaps the best that can be said about the difficulty of this course is that Hewi’s a generous chap. The course giveth, but it doesn’t
taketh much away. The fairways are generally wide and flat, and putts aren’t too tricky even on some quite steep greens. Hit the
snaps, and the forest won’t be too much of a problem; the bunkers seem to be sometimes incidental to the play. I wouldn’t have
thought it likely that a course influenced by Augusta or Bay Hill could be too easy, but this one certainly is.
A magnificent standard, as would be expected. Perhaps it’s not the ultra-realism of Wagga Wagga, but the faults in the challenge and
bunker sculpture simply cannot be put down to APCD usage. There are very few indeed better than Wayne Hewitt.
||A course crying out to be ‘Tigerfied’ (ie. Have all the tees shifted back 40 yards). If it
were, it might be a true winner.
|This course is available as a FREE download.
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