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Driftwood G.C. 2003
by Mike Jones

Release Date CRZ Filesize Par Course Length
2017-06-28  54,991,513  bytes 71  7058 yards
Type Style CRZ Filename
FICTIONAL  LINKS  Driftwood2003.crz 
Course ID Course Key

Re-released as a free download June 2017



Reviewed by Mike Nifong May 2003

In his review of the original version of DriftWood, Pete Dixon describes it as a parkland course with a “British-style design.” Although that description is not inapt, the revised version, for reasons discussed below, seems to me to straddle that ill-defined boundary between parkland and woodland-styled courses. The Princeville pano used in the original version has been retained.

When the original DriftWood was released on February 18, 2001, as approximately the 150th APCD course, it had the distinction, at 56+MB, of being the largest course download ever, and only the second to break the 50MB barrier (Ed Balaun’s Stoney Run preceded it by 13 days). And while that might not sound like a very big deal these days, keep in mind that the average APCD course in those days probably clocked in at under 20MB, and that nearly all of us were still on dial-up. That .zip file generated a 62.3MB .crz file (and subsequently, upon conversion to Links 2003, a 5.78MB .sha file). Still, the compliments regarding quality far outweighed the complaints regarding size – Pete Dixon remarked on the “wonderful planting” and the “exquisite bunkers… probably the best I have seen, superbly finished” – and DriftWood quickly became a community favorite.

At a time when most APCD designers were striving to give us spectacular eye candy and previously unimagined hole layouts, however, DriftWood’s greatest strength may well have lain in its unforced naturalness: rather than repeatedly challenging the precision of our mouse-clicking skills through a series of contrivances that really lent themselves to but one or two interpretations, Mike Jones gave us a course with multitudinous possibilities at nearly every turn – an essay exam, if you will, rather than a true-false test. While some of the holes were actually inspired by real golf courses (#5 and #6 were based on #14 and #15 from Royal Lytham, #8 on Royal Birkdale’s #6, #9 is a general homage to Augusta National, and #17 is based on #17 at Johanesburg’s Crown Mines), all the holes feel as if they could have come from real courses. Of course, none of us really knew Mike then either. Since DriftWood, we have come to learn that his hallmarks are quality of execution and amenability to multivariant strategies, characteristics that have come to full fruition in ShadowLands, but were abundantly in evidence from the outset.

Very few courses from the first six months of the APCD have remained in the active repertoire. DriftWood is undeniably one of them. But much has changed with the APCD in the last 2+ years as well, in terms of both tools and techniques, so inevitably even as fine a course as DriftWood had begun to show its age. And so, from the man who gave us the first pay-to-play course comes the first pay-to-play update of a previously free course.

The original DriftWood predated the ability of designers to add hole previews in the APCD. Mike compensated for that as best he could by including a hole-by-hole guide in the text file. DriftWood 2003, as expected, has hole previews, and they are up to Mike’s usual (i.e., lofty) standard, incorporating these play tips. The text file includes the history of the update process, credits to those who gave assistance, and information about Mike’s website. There is a recorded round, and there are also a couple of saved shots.

The tournament option, as is typical in a Mike Jones design, is exceptionally well realized. There is a good variety of well-placed objects, and the crowd planting is about perfect, with placements ideally calculated to provide the sense of a major tournament venue without exposing the shortcomings of the APCD’s rather limited abilities in this regard.

Well, let’s start with the obvious, although not particularly important (unless you are still on dial-up) subject of file size: DriftWood 2003 is right around 80% as large as the original (and that is true whether you are considering .zip, .crz, or .sha file size). As you will note from the table above, also reduced to 80% of the original is the number of tee boxes (from 5 down to 4). And while it may not immediately strike you as a “less is more” situation, I think this latter fact adds a new dimension to the playability of this course. In its initial incarnation, DriftWood utilized for the most part a runway-style tee alignment, in which the individual tees usually shared the same angle (and sometimes the same patch of grass) with respect to the greens; consequently, there was relatively little change in the way the course played from any two adjacent tee boxes. The new setup changes that considerably: the back tees are pretty close to the original distance (the extra 24 yards coming primarily from the added length on #7 and #18); the new middle tees correspond roughly to the old forward tees, and the new forward tees to the old ladies’ tees; the new set of junior/ladies’ tees plays nearly 500 yards shorter than the forward-most tees on the old course. Offsets are much more common as well, so that the angles as well as the lengths change as you move from tee to tee. This makes for a much more versatile course that can play quite differently depending on your choice of tee.

You probably would not expect too many layout changes in an update, and you would be right in your assumption. After all, there was precious little about DriftWood’s design that needed changing. #16 and #18 both have new back tee boxes which are to the right (well to the right in the case of #18) of the original ones; this not only changes the view off the tee, but, especially in the case of #18, alters the way the hole plays. The bunkering has also been changed on a few holes – #5 (where the large fairway bunkers have been replaced by smaller ones), #10 (where two small bunkers have been added to the right of the fairway), #13 (where new bunkers guard both sides of the fairway at the dogleg), and #18 (where the three large bunkers to the left of the fairway have been replaced by four small ones and the landing area has also been narrowed) – but these are not the sorts of differences that jump out at you. The remaining alterations to the layout consist of very subtle changes in elevations, rarely noticeable save for the occasional sense that the “down-hole” view off the tee is a little better.

There is some irony in the fact that the most obvious visual changes (other than the new high-res textures, which are uniformly superb) are achieved in the two categories in which the original DriftWood received its highest praise: the planting and the bunkers. While I agreed in early 2001 with Pete Dixon’s assessment of those bunkers, by 2003 they had become one of the clearest indications that the course needed an update. I am happy to report that DriftWood 2003 is fully deserving of the comments Pete made about the original. With a new slightly orange texture replacing the original white sand, Mike employed the technique of blending both the top and bottom lips of each bunker which he introduced in ShadowLands, and the result is every bit as successful here: bunkers just don’t get any better than this.

If there is one category where DriftWood 2003 clearly steps out of the mold of its predecessor, however, it is in the planting. Mike has always stood out in this category – most of you would probably concur in my opinion that his skills in this department are unsurpassed – but he has also learned a lot in the last two years. In essence, what he has done here is to change the nature of the planting to create a transition from a front nine that I would describe as open woodland to a back nine that is more parkland (sometimes bordering on prairie); the overall effect is at least vaguely reminiscent of the old Access Valhalla course. To achieve this result, he has increased the density of the forested areas for the first ten holes (with the exception of #8, where the trees that lined the right side of the second half of the fairway have been removed in favor of an expanse of tall grass). Then, beginning with #11, the course becomes much more open, often as a result of the removal of virtually all trees from one side of a hole (e.g., #11 and #12). The views off the tees, especially from the back, are also greatly enhanced by the judicious use of color; where fairway-like areas once wrapped around the rounded tee boxes, those areas are in the new version often filled with various combinations of flowers, low shrubs, and tall grasses. The various bodies of water are also effectively touched up by use of more realistic color and by the use of floating vegetation, ŕ la ShadowLands (e.g., #16). The effect is almost always an improvement over the original. My one regret is the loss of the view off the #17 tee over that absolutely lovely boulder-strewn and shrub-filled depression; I must admit, however, that the new #17 vista is more in keeping with the revised theme.

One other thing that must be remarked upon is the fact that DriftWood 2003 plays significantly easier, both objectively and subjectively, than the original version. [The original DriftWood had a course difficulty of 1.06, or moderately difficult, a full .10 higher than DriftWood 2003. A difference of .06 is statistically significant."> My suspicion is that the more open back nine in the new version plays a little easier than the original. The “numbers behind the numbers” may lend some support to that theory: the -5 under b/m/m/m conditions resulted from an average of -1 on the front nine and -4 on the back; the -2 under w/f/f/d conditions reflects an average of E on the front and -2 on the back.


All the reason I need is the name of the designer – I cannot imagine any collection of Links courses being considered adequate unless it contained every one of Mike’s designs. But for those of you who insist on a more reasoned explanation, DriftWood 2003 takes a layout that has withstood the test of time as a golf course and incorporates some subtle changes that enhance playability without altering the basic nature of the course. At the same time, it raises the visual quality of an already lovely course to the ShadowLands level. I would rate that a significant accomplishment under any circumstances, and an absolute steal at this price.

Course Statistics:

4 tees; 7058/6627/6296/5795

CLIPNOTES by Ben Bateson (ousgg)

Fictional, parkland course
Concept  7/10
A planting dream, Driftwood amalgamates forest and heath styles of planting in a totally natural manner. The oddities of the course, if truth be told, come from some very un-Jones-like use of elevations, particularly on the steeply-plateaued greens. In some ways it harkens back to an older, 2001 style of course construction, and this doesn’t necessarily work in its favour. Certain holes, though, are absolute gems, with the standout 16th – a ‘Tin Cup’ style Par 5 – being an absolute cracker: well judged and challenging in just the right amounts.
Appearance  9/10
Particularly on a Dynamic camera, there are regions of Driftwood that are showing their age. Texture bands stand out and there are some oddities around the edge of the water features. But the planting has clearly had time lavished on it: the low grasses and heath regions could teach a valuable lesson to many a beginning designer, and the whole course radiates typical MJ style despite its flaws.
Playability  8/10
Driftwood is open and inviting and it’s unlikely that it will turn many people away. Many holes are well-judged in terms of challenge, particularly off the tee, and the truly authentic aura does make you push on to see what is coming next. But there’s a crucial something lacking, whether it’s in visual flair or architectural style, that makes this course almost forgettable, and that’s a real shame.
Challenge  8/10
With age goes the difficulty of judging…er…difficulty. If MJ was to release Driftwood today, we’d be up in arms over the Mod-unfriendly greens, the blind tee shots and the pressing hazarding. In truth, the course is somewhat tough thanks to these inconveniences. But – notably on the Par 3s – there are chances to earn shots back. A plus-par final score would certainly not be a surprise, though.
Technical  9/10
There are, of course, no major flaws here. I noticed a couple of sharp edges, and a problem with some rock planting, but – by ‘eck – I didn’t half have to look hard to find them. Of course it’s magnificent, and of course it’s a brilliant use of the APCD to create a lifelike course and environment.
Overall Probably Mike’s weakest course. Should this stop you from owning it? Of course not. 41/50
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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