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Royal County Kilderry 2003
by Mike Jones

Release Date CRZ Filesize Par Course Length
2017-06-28  49,801,383  bytes 70  6764 yards
Type Style CRZ Filename
FICTIONAL  LINKS  RCKilderry2003.crz 
Course ID Course Key

Re-released as a free download June 2017



Reviewed by Mike Nifong July 2003

Royal County Kilderry is a fictional Irish links-style course. Neither it nor its designer needs much in the way of introduction to anyone who has previously visited this site.

The initial version of RCK was the last original course released by Mike (in July 2002) prior to the advent of pay-to-play (he did subsequently release a free update of El Escorpion), and was the recipient of near-universal acclaim as the best-ever APCD course up until that time. That stature remained undiminished when Mike announced (on March 1, 2003) the imminent release of RCK2003 (along with DriftWood2003), an event that would make the designer who was first to release a pay-to-play course also first to release a pay-to-play version of a course that was already available at no charge. And while that decision may have raised some eyebrows, few would have questioned the premise that if anyone could accomplish such an undertaking successfully, it was he.

RCK2003 comes with a text file that explains the course “history” and the nature and intent of the changes implemented. The cameo and splash screen are new, and each is very much in keeping with Mike’s tradition of graphic excellence. The hole previews are carried over from the previous version and are excellent (they do not contain the green slope information that some designers include, but the greens of RCK2003 play very fairly and are amenable to being read accurately without the use of grids). There is also a recorded round, amusingly entitled “the course won.”

Special mention should be made of the tournament option, which is always an outstanding feature of any Mike Jones design. The colorful crowds are extremely well placed, and they can add quite a bit of depth to the typically flat and essentially treeless vista that one expects in a links setting, as you will note from the screenshots. Of course, if you like to play the course in its pristine natural state, as I normally do when playing a solitary round, that option remains. The best of both worlds.

As one might expect of a course that was received so enthusiastically in its original incarnation, there have been very few changes to the layout – why mess around with perfection? With the exception of three holes on which there are new back tee boxes (with a concomitant change of the middle/forward tees on two of them), lengths are unchanged and elevations differ by no more than a foot from the original.

Even on the three holes to which changes have been made, differences from the original version are mostly subtle. On #3, the new back tee places you some 34 yards further back of the stone wall which features so prominently in the view to the right side from the back tee of the 2001 version (the old back tee location, incidentally, becomes the middle tee location on RCK2003, with the ladies’ tee position unchanged. On #11, the back tee box has been moved about 70 yards to the left, shortening the hole by an insignificant 3 yards, but changing the view off the tee considerably, especially with reference to the stream, which is now all but invisible from the tee. And on #13, the new back tee box has been placed about 30 yards behind and slightly to the left of the old one (which, again, becomes the new middle tee box); the 4-foot increase in elevation also gives an improved view of the fairway.

But this minor tweaking of the layout tells only part of the story, as the real impetus for (and success of) the revised version is the availability of the new high-resolution textures in APCD 1.5. Not that there was anything wrong with the textures on the original, mind you – after all, it was pretty much the standard by which links-style courses have been judged from the moment of its release. Not even that the new textures jump out at you the first time you play RCK2003, especially if you have not recently played the original. But once you have undergone the experience of a round or two on this remarkably nuanced revision, you will probably find the original disappointingly… bland (for want of a more descriptive word). The only analogy I can make that seems to fit (and this will not work for the perfectly-sighted among you) is to the situation where you are fitted with a new pair of corrective lenses. When you put them on (or in) for the first time, you are aware that you can see better than before, but you don’t realize exactly how much you have been missing until you try on your old ones again. And even this fails to tell the whole story; Mike has not just upgraded the textures, but he has also utilized complicated seam blends, much as he did in ShadowLands, to create worn spots and dried-out areas. All of this improvement effects very little change in the file size: the .crz file is just over 12.5% bigger than before, the .sha file only about 1% bigger.

For those of you who must have something to carp about, the one downside to the reworking of the textures is some very minor creasing in the revetted walls of some of the bunkers (slightly more noticeable on the first few holes). This will only be visible if you are in or very near the bunkers, and at any rate it is only minimally distracting, but it does constitute the only deviation from sheer perfection, and it was not present in the original. Before anyone complains, however, you should realize that this effect is an artifact of the seam-blending operation within the APCD 1.5 itself and does not constitute evidence of any shortcomings in either Mike’s technical prowess or his commitment to perfection. Nor is it nearly as noticeable here as it is on many other non-Mike Jones APCD 1.5 courses.

One more subject deserves brief comment. Recently, there was a post in the LC forums regarding a distorted or “static-y” quality to the ambient sound files (primarily, a strong and whistling wind). I found this a bit surprising, as I had not noticed anything amiss when I had played the course. Having returned with a more critical ear, I was able to hear what I believe was being referred to: there is a component of “noise” of the sort caused by a moving column of air interacting with the metal screen or grate that covers the transducer element of a microphone – anyone who has any familiarity with live music or public address applications will know what I mean – which is why we so often see those fuzzy covers on microphones used outdoors. This was not an issue for me, but if you are acutely sensitive to that effect, you may prefer to play without the sounds, as good as they otherwise are.

Not surprisingly, given the relatively minimal changes to the actual layout, RCK2003 plays very similarly to its previous incarnation, and you should probably expect to enjoy similar success (or the lack thereof, as the case may be).


To anyone who actually has to ask this question, I would give the following advice: as long as you never lay eyes on the new version, you will remain perfectly satisfied with the original. You will certainly want to avoid enlarging the screenshots that accompany this review, however, and you may want to avoid looking at them altogether. Don’t say I did not warn you.

For everyone else, the desirability of being able to play the best version of what many people feel is the best course ever created by the person almost everyone agrees is the best designer in the business pretty much speaks for itself.


Front nine: 3442/3209/2901; par 36

Back nine: 3322/3031/2686; par 34

Total: 6764/6240/5587; par 70

CLIPNOTES by Ben Bateson (ousgg)

Fictional, farmland course
Concept  10/10
In some ways, Kilderry feels like Mike Jones’ spiritual home. It’s extraordinarily understated: a links-esque course with generous fairways, hugely punishing deep rough and complete lack of pretension in the hole design. And yet the whole thing is beautifully compulsive: one of the few fictional layouts with no surprises and a contender for the most lifelike course design we’ve ever seen.
Appearance  9/10
It’s hard to believe that this course is suffixed with ‘2003’, for there is real sophistication in the textures, the blends and the understated course surrounds. Possibly the only weak link is a shortage of density in the grass planting, which for the most part looks OK, but does occasionally reveal some sparse artificiality.
Playability  10/10
Magic stuff. Seemingly without having to put any trademark holes in front of you, Kilderry is impulsive and abnormally good at drawing you into its environs. It’s difficult to keep coming up with superlatives for the sheer brilliance in Mike Jones’ course design, but more so than any great APCD work, you should take a trip out on this course to see what realistic, lifelike golf design is about. It’s difficult to believe this has ever been realistically matched.
Challenge  7/10
While it’s nice to see a course that isn’t stretched beyond reasonability for many of us, the accommodating acreage of this course does mean that some approach shots will tend to the simplistic, and it’s really a bit too easy to clock up a round a few strokes beneath par. Leaving the driver in the bag for this one and negotiating the doglegs with common sense will pay off to the tune of a few strokes at least.
Technical  9/10
It’s worrisome to look at some of the bumps around the green and think they’ve been created by a mesh adjustment too many, but it might just be the case that here is a weak link in Kilderry’s construction. Harsh it may be, but small flaws stand out a long way on immaculate courses.
Overall The acme of underplayed course design. Nothing outstanding to look at, but a dream to play. 45/50
Please remember that Clipnote reviews are the opinion of one person and do not constitute an 'Official' Links Corner review of the course.

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