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J Milnes Best 2002
by John Milne

Links Corner Course Database ID Number - 1015
Release Date CRZ Filesize Par Course Length
2002-08-31  19,627,658  bytes 72  7457 yards
Type Style CRZ Filename
FICTIONAL  UNCLASSIFIED  j.milnesbest.crz 
Course ID Course Key
5b0497b0f7c441e08b7ef36d0be33d93  7ae3650af95d51bd9389d558abedb68b 



Reviewed by Mike Nifong

October 2002

Course type: J. Milne's Best is a fictional course set in an unspecified coastal pine forest. For the most part, it bears some physical resemblance to Eddie Schmidt's Spyglass Hill in terms of setting and textures, a fact that would suggest a Northern California location. On the other hand, there are holes immediately evocative of quite different venues, a fact that, when coupled with the name chosen, might be taken to indicate that the course is more of an anthology of holes than it is a representation of a specific place.

Historical perspective: Released on August 31, 2002, J. Milne's Best is apparently the first course that John has made available to the public, although its appearance would seem to belie that fact. John did point out, when he made the first screen shots available, that he had created other courses he deemed unworthy of public release. From the evidence here, it would seem that he has learned well from those previous endeavors. The enthusiasm that greeted those first glimpses was repeated once the full course was made available, and it has resulted in a 4-star user assessment thus far. JMB also narrowly missed designation as an LC Recommended Course for August, an oversight that I would imagine was a consequence of its late release date.

What is included: Given its very modest 19.1MB file size, it is not surprising that a few goodies have been left out of the package. There is no read-me, so there is nothing to either confirm or deny my assumptions concerning venue or history. The customary cameo (which does not quite fill the frame) and splash screen are included; both seemed acceptable to me, although there has been some less favorable comment. There are no hole previews, which strikes me as a bit of a shame for a course of this quality. The tournament option is also rather anaemic: there are no tournament objects, and the planted galleries are unusually sparse.

A very polished course that looks not in the least like a first attempt. I did not open the course in the APCD, but I noticed no mesh shadows, no sharp edges, nothing to detract from its meticulous appearance. There was the anomaly involving the tees, which makes this course for all practical purposes a four-tee course with the red tees at the back - a situation that will not be to everyone's liking. There is also a 'steel weed' issue - or perhaps I should say 'stone weed,' since golf balls bounce off of them as if they were little green rocks - with the clumps of greenery dotted with yellow flowers (both the ground-hugging variety and the taller specimens) that constitute the majority of the underplanting in the pine forest areas. As a practical matter, this is not as problematic as one might fear: the underplanting is sparse enough that you will not often find your ball coming to rest close enough to one of them that it will affect your recovery shot. But you should not be surprised to witness some pinball effects if you hit into the trees. The lack of a pano on the ocean side also (very occasionally) results in the 'blue line on the horizon' phenomenon, but this is an exceedingly minor complaint.

The previously noted resemblance to Spyglass Hill is more than skin deep: this is a truly beautiful golf course. Nothing seems out of place, and every detail seems to maintain the high standard that makes itself so clear from the outset. Notwithstanding the 'stoniness' of some of the specimens of ground-level plants, the overall planting scheme seems just about ideal. None of the plants called attention to themselves - they just all seemed to blend naturally into their surroundings. The bunkers are magnificently finished. The water treatments are all very good, if perhaps not quite up to the Pacific Breaks summit, with one minor exception: I found the water edge treatments front and back of the green on #13 a little disappointing - the 'flooded' look, with no planting or mud edge and the mow lines extending into the water. There are no cart paths - a fact that has minor implications for the degree of realism achieved, but is otherwise inconsequential.

A lot of good work is done also with rocky outcroppings, which are especially prominent along the coastal holes. On #15, where they are joined by exceptionally attractive arching stone bridges, the effect perhaps veers a little too close to the fantasy side, but it provides an undeniably magnificent visual.

If there is a problem with the artistry here, it is that suggested by the course name: while every hole falls somewhere along the attractive-to-stunning continuum, they do not necessarily look like they would all be found on the same course. My first impression when I teed off for the first time was that I was playing a southern piedmont course in the Pinehurst tradition. That lasted only until the third hole, where the course breaks out of the pine forest onto a beach area that bears no resemblance whatsoever to the Atlantic shore. At that point, I reoriented myself and decided I was playing along the northern coast of California, an illusion that was easy enough to maintain as the course turned back into the pine forest, not unlike Spyglass Hill. But something about those railroad timbers used along the elevated portion of the fairway and in front of the green on #11 (an effect, incidentally, that I liked very much) once again struck me as Southeastern U.S. - Tennessee, maybe? That thought was also banished when the course headed back to the ocean on #14, and when I saw the view from the tee on #15, I could not imagine where I might be, although Rivendell came to mind. The final dislocation came on #17, where the approach shot looked like a veritable tribute to Augusta National.

More could also have been made of the sounds, which seemed to have been a bit haphazardly planted (now you hear them, now you don't). An ocean course (or the ocean portion of a course) really needs a pounding surf.

A bit of an odyssey, then, but a very appealing odyssey. And, as one might expect from a 'tree course,' it gains quite a bit in the conversion to Links 2003.

At 7457 yards, J. Milne's Best is a few hundred yards longer than the average course. Commonly, such length is achieved by way of long (and unreachable) par-5's, making any score better than birdie pretty close to unattainable. I was pleased to find (and you should be, too) that John took a different tack here: each of the four par-5's is normally reachable in two from the back. Moreover, while the par-4's tend to be longer than average, with five of them exceeding 450 yards, none of them is unreasonably long: only the 491-yard #2 exceeds 467 yards. As a result, JMB does not seem to play as long as it measures, and you will have your share of eagle opportunities here.

You will also have plenty of opportunities for bogey - or worse. The peril lies primarily in the approach shots, as tee shots are pretty straightforward, albeit with some risk/reward options in places - your driver is not always the best choice - and the fairways are of very reasonable dimensions in the landing areas, even for a recent convert to RTS (i.e., one who is still struggling with his consistency) like myself. The greens, on the other hand, can be quite treacherous, although I never found them to be unfair. The typical JMB green is both elevated and protected by well-placed and often deep bunkers and/or water hazards. To make the approach even dicier, there is usually an area of closely mown grass that slopes sharply away from the green surface on at least one side; any ball that reaches these areas will run rapidly away, usually for a considerable distance and into more penal terrain, sometimes into a hazard. Difficult pin placements will often tempt you, against your better judgment, to flirt with disaster on these slopes; my experience would suggest that the percentage play is to shoot for the middle of the green. Of course, reaching the green is in itself no guarantee of success: you will often find yourself having to deal with tiers or significant (but again, not unreasonable) slopes - usually downhill. So if you are not close to the pin, two putts may be a relief.

Playing the course in 2001, the computer foursome finished -23 (-3 to -10) in b/m/m/m conditions, hitting 78% of the fairways (69-85%) and 73% of the greens (61-77%); under w/f/f/d conditions, they were only -3 (+10 to -6), hitting 74% of the fairways (64-85%), but only 52% of the greens (27-72%). These figures would place this course in the more-difficult-than-average category, an assessment with which I agree. Playing in 2003, RTS (no grids), b/m/m/d conditions, the best round I could muster was -2 (4 birdies, 2 bogeys). But those figures tell only part of the story. I also note, under each set of conditions, the four holes on which the computer players had their highest stroke average (relative to par) and the four holes on which they had their lowest. Typically, there is a bit of overlap, so that all sixteen of those positions will be filled by ten to thirteen holes. This course is the only one I have yet tested where sixteen different holes occupied those sixteen positions. In other words, there are no holes that consistently played easier than or harder than the rest; each hole is capable of yielding a good score or a bad one. My own playing experience was absolutely consistent with these results: this is a challenging course on which you can never afford to hit a nonchalant shot.

It is also quite a bit of fun. The only hole for which I have little enthusiasm is the 222-yard par-3 #13, where a shallow green slopes rapidly down to water front and back - a little too much target golf for my taste, and a scary shot with a 5W in RTS. On the other hand, there are a number of really fine holes. My favorite was probably the 568-yard par-5 #11 (with its trademark railroad tie revetments): you can play it as it lies, taking three shots to reach the green, or you can hit about a 5W to an elevated portion of the fairway from which the green can be reached with a 3W, although not without facing substantial peril - an absolutely wonderful hole.

The bottom line: Lovely to look at, challenging to play, looks even better in 2003. If this course were a girl, you would most certainly want to go out with her. Not to be missed.

Course Statistics :

Course statistics: Par 72; 5* sets of tees; 7457 yards from back tees; holes are handicapped.

*Nominally - on every hole but #10, the red (ladies') and black (back) tees are the same

CLIPNOTES by Ben Bateson (ousgg)

Fictional, ocean course.
Concept  6/10
A little confused, this. It tends to veer between being a forested mountain course and a shoreline Pebble-Beach style. Luckily, individual hole designs hold it up, being fresh, original and challenging. Perhaps the course is too penal in parts, but many players will return again and again to enjoy some imaginative landscaping, particularly that on the closing half-dozen holes.
Appearance  7/10
Often a very good looking course. The planting is sparse but looks effective from a distance, and the elevation changes provide many an impressive view. The designer has gone to town with landscape moulding, creating many impressive effects without straying too far into completely unnatural appearance. The hollows and the harbour (above) are works of art, but more of a misjudgement was the use of Spyglass' beach texture (which has never appealed to me) on the opening holes, making them look poor and artificial.
Playability  7/10
Surprisingly, for such a tough course, these 18 holes are pretty enjoyable. A lot of players will see the potential in this and want to play round several times in order to catch the best views. Although fairways are narrow, several holes offer a convincing choice of play, and avoiding all the hazards will attract those with unusual MoPs. The great elevation changes provide a serious challenge without ever getting you into trouble.
Challenge  5/10
Too steep, I'm afraid. The opening holes are damn tough and you should expect to be over par by the turn. Approach shots to small greens will often roll off into bunkers and the length of the course is also designed to punish. Some ridiculously narrow fairways take a lot of the enjoyment out of what could be a very good round.
Technical  8/10
J Milne's Best is pretty sound technically. I think if an update were to be produced, some more careful texture work and more customisation would be required. Blend this with more organised planting (especially in the sand regions) and we could be looking at a brilliant course. Even as it is, some of the brilliant (if slightly unbelievable) landscaping holds it up really well.
Overall A well-sculpted treat of a fantasy course. Even if you don't like them off-the-wall, play this one once just to enjoy the views. Those who like a challenge and something unusual will make this a keeper. 33/50
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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