Rocky Nuts GC
by Chuck Clark
|Links Corner Course Database ID Number - 1237
LINKS CORNER REVIEW
|Reviewed by Mike Nifong
Course type: Rocky Nuts is a fantasy/imaginary mountain desert course that Chuck describes as “an experimental APCD golf course”:
“I wanted to see what it would be like to build a golf course in an extremely rugged mountain environment with rocky hillsides. I wanted to experiment with HUGE elevation changes… I wanted the ball to bound and roll long distances off these hillsides… I also wanted to introduce the risk/reward options of deliberately bouncing your golf ball off certain spots on the rock to gain huge distan[ce">advantages… There is no way that this course would ever be built (or even contemplated) in real life. There are actually paths, tunnels and bridges that access each part of the course, but to think someone could actually drive or walk it is pretty ludicrous.”
Historical perspective: Between April 1, 2001, and November 1, 2001, Chuck Clark shared five different courses with the Links Community: Rugged Coast, Crocodile Falls, Crowning Hills, Box Canyon, and Bunker Hill. Those five courses were quite different in many respects, but they shared a few salient features as well. All of them were quite modest in size (7.9MB-13.9MB), and all of them were far more renowned for their “fun factor” than their polish. But things changed quite dramatically for Chuck in 2002, with two courses that evidenced a previously unseen artistry. First came The Players 18 on April 2. A compendium of holes from 18 different designers strung together into a single course sounded to me like a project doomed to mediocrity at best, but the finished product proved me wrong. I was the official reviewer for that course, and I gave it a well-deserved 90. [I was pleased to note recently that The Players 18 is once again drawing some favorable comment on the forums."> Then, on July 2, he followed up with Torrey Pines 2002, a remake of the Access/Microsoft version that instantly rendered the original superfluous. Again I was the official reviewer, and this time I awarded a score of 95.
From the foregoing, it should be clear that I believed Chuck had really hit his stride with his last two efforts. Consequently, I did not know quite what to make of his announcement that his new course would be pay-to-play, but that it was not going to be of the same exalted level as the previous four pay-to-play courses. Rather, it was just going to be for fun. What did that mean? It sounded sort of like Box Canyon Redux, and that struck me as a big step backwards.
Well, to cut to the chase, I should not have worried. Building a course to be fun and building it well turn out not to be mutually exclusive propositions. To find out how well he accomplished both goals, read on.
What is included: Chuck has given us a comprehensive read-me file that includes both the history and the philosophy of the course design, acknowledgements for assistance given, and a thorough hole-by-hole course guide. [One thing the read-me file leaves out is the origin of the name Rocky Nuts – I considered asking Chuck, but decided to leave it a mystery."> The expected cameo and splash screen are provided. There are also hole previews that, while perhaps not as artistic as some, show the suggested line of play, give a sentence or so of advice, and even include a small diagram showing green slopes – a lot of helpful information. There is also a recorded round (entitled “CC Best Ever at RNGC,” so play against it at your own risk).
The only thing one might expect that is not included here is any sort of tournament option, but, in truth, a fantasy/imaginary course is not a particularly likely tournament venue. Not only is it hard to imagine that the addition of crowds would have added much, but in fact they might have detracted from the overall impression, as tournament objects certainly would have done.
One additional note: insofar as I could determine, absolutely no sound files have been included, a situation which results in an eerily quiet golfing experience if you do not have any sound scripts enabled.
How it looks: Although Rocky Nuts is a Links 2003 course, it is one of those hybrids that was begun in APCD 1.1 and finished in 1.5. And since Chuck opted not to do any seam blending or path mapping, its 1.5 credentials are not always in evidence. As a matter of fact, the only places that high-resolution textures appear to have been used are for the bunker sand and the rocky hillsides. Since these hillsides do form the bulk of the course terrain, the use of high-res textures there contributes greatly to the overall appearance, but I would have preferred a higher resolution for the grass textures, which look a little blurred in comparison.
One of the most important advances in Links 2003 was the return of the shadows, which improve the looks of almost every course. RNGC may be the exception that proves the rule. There is not much here that casts a shadow, but the ones that are cast by the saguaro cacti have to be the ugliest I have seen. Opaque rather than translucent (was this a design choice, or is this how the game engine draws them?), they look like swaths of tar applied to the rocky desert with a broad brush. And while we are on the subject of shadows, take a look at the size of the .sha file: it is not too big in absolute terms, but it is roughly 42% as big as the .crz file. Presumably, this is a function of the shadows cast by some of the grasses and brushy shrubs; whatever the cause, it is a bit of a surprise.
But if Rocky Nuts looks as much like a converted 2001 course as it does a 2003 one, the fact remains that there are some really attractive 2001 conversions out there, and Rocky Nuts is actually a very attractive course, despite its somewhat limited palette and the restrictions imposed by the design considerations. For example, since the rocky hillsides are supposed to provide rebounding surfaces for errant – or cleverly aimed – golf balls, they have been very sparsely planted; too heavy a plant density would have defeated the desired effect. The modest planting that has been used – grasses and a few low shrubs – provide just enough of a contrast in what could have become monotonous without trapping too many balls. Appropriately, in the low-lying areas where whatever moisture is available would be expected to accumulate, the planting is much lusher: there are areas of rich green that look almost marshy (and which contain the only trees you will find on this course – perhaps half a dozen altogether, visible from the tees on #8, #14 and #16), and the edges of the ponds are thick with grass.
The rocky hills themselves bear some comment. In addition to providing the basic shape to the holes they also serve as (or, perhaps it would be more appropriate to say, obviate) the course pano. Contoured realistically and shaped with tremendous variety, they provide both a diversity of vistas and a unifying coherence, making Rocky Nuts a truly unique course that reminds me of no other. The array of man-made alterations to the stark naturalness of the setting – the clubhouse, the concrete cart paths, the tunnel on the #1/#18 fairway, the transmission towers and other structures on the distant hilltop, the dam and reservoir on #14/#15 – all contribute to a sense of reality that goes far beyond what we are usually given in fantasy/imaginary courses and serves to enhance the illusion that such a course might really exist.
An introduction to the course layout:
#1 (Par 4; 401 yards; HC 9) The opening hole gives a pretty fair representation of what this course holds in store. The tee shot is from an oval, stone-edged tee box to a fairway about 60 yards below, and the rocky ridges to each side will funnel the slight mishit back into the fairway. The result is an easy start to your round. Indeed, for the AI players, this was one of the easiest holes on the course, regardless of conditions.
#2 (Par 3; 202 yards; HC 7) This time the drop is only 40 yards to a plateau that contains a fairly large green that slopes away from the center front and back. There is a very steep drop-off to the left to a small pond (not visible from the tee), so you will not want to miss the green in that direction.
#3 (Par 5; 569 yards; HC 13) Although the green is once again below the level of the tee (only about 22 feet), the fairway is elevated significantly, so that your tee shot plays toward a notch between two hills. If you fail to reach the fairway – something that should not happen often – you will have to rehit. Because the second shot is downhill, you may be able to reach the green in two; but because it is a blind shot, you may well feel the need for some top cam assistance here.
#4 (Par 3; 129 yards; HC 15) A pretty, and straightforward, short par-3 that plays over a lake. The only thing you really need to be concerned with here is placing your ball on the same side of the green as the flag so that you will not have to putt through the swale that runs through the middle.
#5 (Par 4; 417 yards; HC 5) A semi-blind tee shot toward a green 53 yards below. What you cannot see from the tee is the way the fairway steps down the back of the slope you are driving over (see screenshot #3). Depending on how much club you use off the tee, you could be facing anything from a long downhill shot to a short – and blind – uphill pitch for your approach.
#6 (Par 4; 273 yards; HC 17) The first hole (of only two) that plays uphill all the way. Despite the 36-yard elevation change, it is possible to drive this hole, with a little help from the wind, by bouncing your tee shot off the rock just left of the large front bunker. Since that same bunker will swallow any mistakes, you may consider laying up for a short pitch. In keeping with its handicap, this hole proved to be one of the easiest for the AI golfers in all conditions.
#7 (Par 4; 468 yards; HC 11) The 110-yard drop off the tee here is the largest on the course, and this hole could very well be the place you set your personal record for longest drive. [In his notes, chuck describes this hole as drivable, but it certainly was not for me. Still, I usually managed over 420 yards.">
#8 (Par 4; 420 yards; HC 1) Another semi-blind tee shot on which you will probably want to use a 3W or 5W to keep the ball in the fairway. The approach shot plays over a canyon to a tiered green. As you would expect from the handicap, this is the most difficult hole on the front side, but there are several tougher ones on the back nine.
#9 (Par 5; 592 yards; HC 3) In terms of elevation change from tee to green, this is – by a small margin – the flattest hole on the course, with a drop of only 4 feet. Reachable despite its length if you take advantage of the rocks, this hole seemed to play much easier than its handicap would suggest. It also proved to be one of the easiest for the AI golfers, regardless of conditions.
#10 (Par 4; 453 yards; HC 2) Although it does not look particularly difficult, #10 may well be the toughest hole on the course. The other “uphill all the way” hole, it provides a very challenging approach shot, one that will require more club than you may realize. This was one of the toughest holes for the AI golfers as well, especially in difficult conditions.
#11 (Par 3; 189 yards; HC 14) Chuck calls this the signature hole at Rocky Nuts, so I included its picture (screenshot #1). A pretty hole that does not play too tough, but keep in mind that anything short will likely find its way into the lake, so make sure you have enough club.
#12 (Par 4; 326 yards; HC 18) The second reachable par-4 [perhaps the third, but I’m still not convinced about #7">, but the difficulty on this hole seems directly proportional to the aggressiveness of your attack. Interestingly, this hole may be tougher under moderate conditions, if for no other reason than because you are probably not going to take as many chances under difficult conditions. Long and left are more trouble than you can afford.
#13 (Par 4; 417 yards; HC 12) One of my favorite holes at RNGC. The 97-yard elevation drop means that it can be driven if you aim left and utilize the bounce off the rocks. Paradoxically, the elevation change almost makes it more dangerous to lay up, since the lake is much easier to reach than you might think, especially if you get your CHS up too high. If you do lay up, be sure to take enough club for your approach: short equals wet.
#14 (Par 4; 422 yards; HC 4) This hole has a split fairway that it shares with #15. In this direction, the lower (and wider) fairway is on the right. It is the easier to hit, but the upper fairway will give more advantageous position for the approach shot. Be sure to hit one or the other, however, as the area between them will collect any ball that falls short of the upper fairway, and it plays as a hazard. #14 proved to be the second most difficult hole for the AI players in w/f/f/d conditions.
#15 (Par 5; 604 yards; HC 8) After you hole your putt on #14, you climb to the top of a steep hill and play these same two fairways in the opposite direction, only this time the par is five and there is a 69-yard elevation drop from tee to green. The green is tiered and well-protected in front by a large bunker. Still, in contrast to #14, this was the easiest hole on the back nine for the AI golfers, regardless of conditions.
#16 (Par 4; 396 yards; HC 10) A nice view off the elevated tee to a fairway from which the hole plays steeply uphill the rest of the way. It is very easy to leave your approach short here, and you will not want to risk the two pot bunkers in front of the green (which, by the way, is also no pushover).
#17 (Par 3; 170 yards; HC 6) A sneaky-tough par-3 that plays 26 yards downhill and over a small pond, which can be avoided altogether by playing your tee shot to the right, where there is a safe area if you miss the green.
#18 (Par 5; 549 yards; HC 16) The finishing hole plays back to the top portion of the fairway on #1. If you end up too far to the right, the hillside will interfere with your approach shot. And while there is a 37-yard drop from tee to green, the approach is played steeply uphill, so that any shot that comes up short can roll quite a distance back toward you – unless it finds one of the big pot bunkers that seems designed to suck in any ball that comes close. This one plays tougher than the handicap might suggest.
How it plays: For a fantasy/imaginary course, Rocky Nuts plays very much like a fictional course, and I mean that as a compliment. Certainly, looking at the big picture, this is not a course that one would ever find in the real world, but taken shot-by-shot, you will rarely find yourself looking at a situation and saying, “this cannot be.” That having been said, I cannot think of another course that makes such extreme use of elevations: of the 16 holes on which the tee is higher than the green, it is so by an average of nearly 36 yards, and the two uphill holes average about a 33-yard elevation change. [The cart paths – unusual in a fantasy design – often resemble roller coaster tracks."> One consequence of this is to render the caddy unreliable, especially in the more difficult conditions. Choice of club is a crucial decision here, and you will find yourself on your own much more often than is normally the case. For non-clickers who have trouble with consistency of CHS, this problem is magnified.
As you might expect, a second consequence of the elevation changes is that you will usually have a pretty good view off the tee. But there are several holes here where your second shot will be blind, and a few others where not all of the hazards will be visible. This means that, even with the informative hole previews and hole notes, you will probably find yourself needing to activate the top cam, at least the first few times you play Rocky Nuts, to assist you in determining distances or in placing the aiming marker.
To call the fairways undulating is an understatement. In some places, they probably could not even be walked. Rarely will you find a flat lie, especially if you go for maximum distance off the tee, and even more rarely will your ball wind up close to where it first hits. This tends to make the hazards even more hazardous. Water that appears unreachable turns out not to be so, or your ball runs back downhill into a bunker you thought you had carried or trickles sideways into one you thought you had skirted (this effect is enhanced by the fact that the mow lines run right to the edges of the bunkers – there is no collar of rough to catch your ball before it can get in).
The rocky hillsides must also be taken into account. They play as hazards, so you do not want your ball to end up there. On the other hand, not only is it often possible to get a helpful carom off one of them, but the course is set up so that utilizing them in this fashion is actually required to get the optimum results on some shots. The course guide mentions some of these, but a round or two in practice mode may be in order to fully explore the possibilities.
With the unexpected “reachability” of the par-5’s – and a few of the par-4’s – and the choices off the tee, Rocky Nuts ranks pretty high on the risk/reward scale. I did detect a bit of imbalance between the two nines, with the front playing about four strokes easier, on average, than the back. The computer players (skill level 79.0) found the same thing: in b/m/m/m conditions, the AI foursome totaled -24 on the front nine, -7 on the back; in w/f/f/d conditions, they were -5 on the front nine and +11 on the back.
Overall, the computer foursome was -31 (-6 to -10) in b/m/m/m conditions, hitting 92% of the fairways (85-100%) and 77% of the greens (66-88%), and averaging 23.25 putts (22-24). In w/f/f/d conditions, the same foursome was +6 (+5 to -1), hitting 84% of the fairways (71-90%) and 51% of the greens (44-61%), and averaging 25.25 putts (24-27).
Difficulty rating: About average when compared to Links courses in general; in terms of other fantasy/imaginary courses, roughly on a par with Mesa Roja, much easier than Devil’s Island.
The bottom line: To some extent, this will depend on your affinity for fantasy/imaginary courses. In all honesty, I hesitated before purchasing this one, despite my enthusiasm for Chuck’s last two designs, because of his disclaimer that Rocky Nuts was not intended to compete with the likes of ShadowLands. But I noted the positive response this course received from other purchasers on the LC forums, and the notion that paying for this course was a way to reward Chuck for all the things he had previously given us – for free – sort of struck a chord with me. And I would have to say that Rocky Nuts turned out to be a pretty good bargain.
Essential? Probably not, and perhaps not for all tastes. But if you are looking for a well-made course that is both fun to play and not quite like anything else that is available, the acquisition of Rocky Nuts is a pretty good use of $1.99.
Course statistics: Par 72; 6997 yards from the single set of tees; 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.
Imaginary, canyon course.
A totally bizarre and warped course from Chuck Clark’s equally warped
mind. With massive elevation changes, rocky mountains to send your ball
on a merry dance, and fairways criss-crossing as they please, it’s certainly
a unique experience. It’s not quite as innovative as it should be, though,
relying too heavily on the rocky desert as a gimmick, and I don’t see why
Chuck shouldn’t have really pushed the boat out with a multitude of bank
shots, long rolls and other such features.
Given its overwhelming presence, the rocky cliffwork looks pretty good, scrubbily planted and rarely stretched as a texture, although
there are several occasions where the elevation changes (with accompanying fairway or path) completely defy belief. I’m not fond of
the rock surrounds on the tee boxes, either: because a lot of them drop away sharply off the front, it does look like you’re floating more
often than not. There are several impressive views to be had, though, so it’s certainly not all bad.
This should be an absolute hoot to play, assuming that no-one in their right mind is going to take it seriously, and to a large extent
that’s true. Sadly, though, a little too often you can get caught up trying to make a seemingly-possible but frustratingly difficult shot, and
having the desert all play OB does very little to help this.
Thankfully, it is unlikely that this course was designed to shoot low upon. OB penalties will cost you many shots, and some tough
greenside bunkering just adds to the challenge. The landscape tips plenty of balls down into the water hazards too. Some big carries
might seem prohibitive to those using PS. Birdies are quite possible to come by, but the course is by no means easy if you’re going to
be honest with the Mulligans.
It’s hard to rate the technical ability when the outcome is clearly so bizarre. I will limit myself to saying that the elevation work might
have been more moderate in places, and that perhaps some more yellowed grass textures might have been apt.
||A definite Links oddity. Certainly not unplayable, but inevitably frustrating and you
get the impression it’s not quite fulfilled a crazy potential.
|This course is available as a FREE download.
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