LINKS CORNER REVIEW
|Reviewed by Chris Gormley
This is the 2nd course released by Mr. Bunning with the first being a 2001 version of Royal Lytham and St. Annes. The first course was very well received by the Links Community not only for its realism but for its APCD technical design. I don’t know how Mr. Bunning could improve on an already outstanding design but after looking at this course, he has. Here is a little bit from the readme:
“Royal Lytham and St. Annes Golf Club
First off, let me welcome you to the home of the 2001 Open Championship.
I first must thank Phil Medcalf, a greenskeeper at Lytham. He sent me a couple hundred pictures as well as strokesavers annotated with his personal comments. He took the splash screens you see of the course while it loads. Thanks friend.
Others deserving mention are Mike Jones, who needs no introduction. He helped with textures and gave me some much needed planting techniques. DLunatic reworked the panorama and Vanbesten built the 3D clubhouse and other buildings. Mick Pendergast donated some server space for beta testing. Finally, a thanks to the Dark Horse gang for feedback during the entire build process.
The course is a par 71 (35-36) layout that measures 6905 yards from the tips. Many consider it to be an unbalanced course since the back 9 plays considerably harder that the front 9. It is quirky since it starts off with a par 3, has 3 par 3s on the front 9, as well as back to back par 5s on the front that are easy birdie holes (and not too difficult to eagle in Links). The back 9 finishes with 6 par 4s, three that measure longer than 445 yds. Next to Carnoustie, it may be the toughest finish in the Open Championship rotation.
I set the course up as it played in the Open, with the proper fairway widths and OB between the 15th and 16th holes. Pin positions 0-3 are set as they were for days 1-4 of the Championship. For you chartaholics out there, the default wind speed has been increased, so don’t get too upset when your charts don’t work quite right.”
From the very first tee you can see all the work that has gone into this course to make it as real looking as possible. The textures look very good and all fit well together, and they are also seam blended which really makes things look natural. The textures in the bunkers are a must see IMHO. I would not suggest hitting into the bunkers during a competitive round but venture there during a practice round so that you can check these out. Mr. Bunning has spent some time here and everyone should really take a moment to appreciate the work put in to these pot bunkers.
Many of the nuances of the real course are also included. Things like how the fairways would be mowed(in the game the fairways appear to be 2 different colors, just like they would on tv) and there are even drainage ditches throughout the design that occur on the IRL course. Real courses are always a joy to play but they are even more so when the designer has taken the time and put in the effort to try and make the course look as real as they possibly can using all the tools available to them.
The planting throughout the course is very well done and looks very natural. I especially want to commend Mr. Bunning on his undergrowth planting, especially the different uses of the grasses. This is a tough area to plant and while some designers either overplant or underplant in this area that is not the case on this course. The different grasses are used to perfection to capture the feel of a Links course. The trees and shrubs that he has used also add to and enhance the excellent undergrowth planting that he has done.
The APCD technical work is very good, just like the original course. The area that stands out most to me is the work done in the bunkers. There are 2 types of bunkers on this course: standard bunkers, and pot bunkers. They both look great but the put bunkers are especially good, maybe some of the best we have seen done on any course. Some people may say from an initial glance that they are unfair or unrealistic but after having checked out some pictures on the net I can tell you that they are very realistic and they do occur this way on the IRL course. The fairways are also very undulating (like the original course) especially on the back 9. These will offer for some interesting bounces just like what the pro’s have to deal with when they are at Royal Lytham and St. Annes for a tournament.
The hole previews are also very well done and are not only helpful to the players but also very professionally done.
Now let’s walk through some holes on the course:
Hole 3: This is a par four that plays a moderate 448 yards. The hole is lined with trees and out of bounds to the right side while your typical long grasses and shrubs line the left side. There are numerous bunkers around and in the fairway to hassle a player if they are not careful placing their shots. There is an especially wicked pot bunker to the right front of the green to gobble up any shots that land short so make sure to fly over that or it could prove to be a very long hole of golf.
Hole 5: This is a long par 3 hole that measures in at around 216 yards. This hole should be easy if you can place your first shot correctly, but if you go astray(especially to the right of the green) there are some bunkers that could just absolutely ruin a players day.
Hole 8: This is another long par 4 that weighs in around 410 yards. The elevation changes are very nice here. Your initial drive should not be a problem unless the wind is blowing but make sure you second shot does not end up short of the green as there is a big mound there and some more of those wonderful pot bunkers to give a player a hard time.
I have only taken the time to go over 3 great holes on the course but there are 15 others for you to discover on your own. Every one of the holes offers something to challenge players of any ability.
What more is there that I can say, Royal Lytham and St. Annes 2004 is a great upgrade to an already well established course. Everything from the planting to the APCD technical work is awesome. Mr. Bunning has captured the feeling of the course and has transferred it all over to Links for us. We have some very good “Links Style” courses available to us but I feel that this might be the most natural looking and realistic of them all. I highly recommend this course for everyone to have in their collection of courses. If you have the original 2001 release you will want to upgrade to this version as there is just so much that was added to make the course look and play like the real course not to download it.
"I am writing this review from the viewpoint of not only a player but as a Tour Director. Although I am not a designer I understand the work that goes into a design as I have beta tested many courses and look at every course that is released. M review is simply how I as a player/Tour Director would view this course after a couple of rounds."
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