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Links Country Club
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Blackclough Forest. G. C.
by Alan Toft

Links Corner Course Database ID Number - 523
Release Date CRZ Filesize Par Course Length
2001-07-30  30,246,276  bytes 72  7104 yards
Type Style CRZ Filename
FICTIONAL  WOODLAND  Blackclough Forest G. C..crz 
Course ID Course Key
98987c1f597848f985d74a09c38adb2f  5c71b6064d05c588804e49defd24fd06 


Reviewed by Dave Campbell

Expectations: I was looking forward to playing this course. Even though this is Alan's first APCD course he is on a short list of the very best designers for the PGA golf sim.

First Impressions: Blackclough Forest G.C. is the initial APCD design by Alan Toft and was submitted to the Links Corner on 7/30/01. It is a fictional woodland, parkland par 72 that plays to 7,104 yards from the big boys. There are five tee choices and the red tee total is only 5,608 yards, so you can really play this course a number of ways. Alan comes with a wealth of course design experience as one of the top PGA golf sim designers. He was actually commissioned by Sierra to design a course (among several other designers) that was made available in the 'PGA2000 Titanium Edition' commercial release. So, how does he fare with his first foray into the APCD?

Playability: I mentioned that the course is woodland/parkland. It certainly leans more toward the forest look but the planting is such that if you stray off the fairways there are openings to be had. I loved the way this course is planted both from a tree standpoint and the lush ground cover. Absolutely as good as it can be done, a top-notch effort.

The layout is very sound and believable, as would be expected from someone with his design experience. From the back tees you have many more tree influenced drives, with the easier tee options getting some relief. Fairway bunker placement is well thought out. For example; the 390-yard par 4 8th hole has a bunker in the fairway to force a risk/reward decision. Play a driver or 3W and hit the fairway and your looking at a fairly easy birdie chance. I chose a 5W to land short of that bunker and was left a 185 yard 5 iron shot. There are decisions like this throughout that really shows Alan's design experience.

Tee boxes are rectangular in shape and have a stock look with ball washers and waste cans on most. As mentioned, there are five tees with a 1,500-yard difference between the blacks and reds. The way he laid out the tee boxes are great, much thought went into their placement with less difficult driving angles and easier playability as each tee progresses. From the back tee you will need to do the occasional tee box shift to get the best angle to the fairway, and to avoid possible tree trouble.

The fairways are a bit tight overall for my tastes, but they look realistic. There is not a 1st cut but there is a generous cushion of normal rough before you get to the deep grass and the sometimes dense under planting. Getting in this stuff can cause you to lose a stroke or two so avoid it at all costs. On three or four holes I actually used a 5W because of fairway traps or water danger. I played the entire course, several times, and was never tempted to use the big dog. A 3W off the tee gave me reasonable approaches on most holes, and every par 5 can be reached in two but severe penalties await the errant shot.

The greens are fair and full of subtle breaks. No two look alike and the many shapes, along with strategic greenside bunker placement, will have you thinking long over many approaches. All green speed settings can be used, from slow to very fast. There are some sharp elevations on some but they're few and far between.

The hazards on this course, particularly for a first design, are outstanding. Bunkers usually suffer in early designs but these are very nicely done. Sunken ever so slightly, with an extruded dirt wall and nice light brown/yellowish texture. They are fair to play from unless you're butted right up to the extruded face. All are placed with thought and there isn't one shot on the course where sand won't come into play. The water is plentiful in the form of many small lakes and creeks, and finished exquisitely. Many have OB or hazard stakes marking their locations with well-done planting along many of the banks. I can safely say that the water can make or break your round on this course. It has a strong presence on at least half the holes and makes for some very tense, demanding tee shots and approaches.

The course does not have much in the way of object placement, which is a good thing. I noticed many bridges, a few starters shacks, some tourney towers, the clubhouse, the aforementioned OB and hazards stakes along with the ball washers and wastebaskets. Near all the water Alan has planted sounds from running water to some subtle, plunking sounds. They are all very well done.

Drawbacks: I already touched on the tight fairways. They are not fantasy by any means but there is no let up the entire round, except for a couple of par 3's. Every other tee shot was very tense. Fortunately the wooded areas are not right up against the fairways so you will have a decent recovery chance if you don't miss the snap to badly. I do play PS at the Champ level so take this into account.

The layout overall is fantastic but I was struck by the similarity of the 2nd and 3rd hole. Both par 4's around 425 yards with a lake left and a fairway bunker right on the drive. The first time I played this course and the 3rd hole rendered, I did a double take. I thought I was on the 2nd tee again.

As my test rounds wore on I started feeling a sameness to the design. Not many different looks present themselves as you progress. The same tight drives from the par 4's and 5's, it just seemed a bit repetitive. Don't get me wrong, it is a very solid design and totally playable. Maybe an island green or perhaps a large, wild looking bunker waste area you're forced to carry over, as an example.

Best Hole: There are many great holes on this course but for me one clearly stands out as the signature hole. The 140-160 yard par 3 17th is simply as good as it gets, especially from the back tees. A creek cuts diagonally across your view from tee to green and feeds a pond the sits left of the green. Traps dot the front part of the green and your short iron drive will be tested here. My screenshot of this hole illustrates the wonderful planting I talked about. A birdie chance on this hole all depends on pin placement. There are places on the green where you can definitely go for the flag but there are other locations where it's suicidal. All the par 5's can be reached in two and I know this appeals to many. The 465-yard par 4 18th is a tough and beautiful finishing hole demanding a long, water influenced approach shot.

Test round stats: -3 71% FIR 66% GIR 27 putts. I played several online rounds on this course and only this one round where I kept score.

Comparable courses: Gator Lakes by Lacy Gearheart

Overall: Blackclough Forest is an extremely well done woodland course, and is more impressive when you take into account that it is a first design. If Alan continues to design for Links I would look for something very special down the line. In the mean time you can play this fine course, just make sure you bring your snap. I would recommend this course for all swing types but the tight fairways will demand much from the Champ level player, both the clicker and powerstroker. Well done Alan, I'm glad you took a whack at the APCD and I hope to play another of your courses soon.

Course Info :
Cameo Screen? Yes
Splash Screen? Yes
Text file? Yes
Hole Previews? No
Reviewed August 2001

CLIPNOTES by Ben Bateson (ousgg)

Fictional, forest course
At a guess, Id say Oregon or Washington state fit the bill
M*/S* seems to be the reasonable upper limit
Concept  5/10
A straightforward forest layout with the woodland realised very convincingly, given the APCD tools in use at the time. The hole design is particularly plain and gimmick-free, which is refreshing and almost certainly deliberate, although it does get notably tiring towards the end of the round as you endeavour to pick up on the trademark holes. The environment is not helped by the almost complete enclosure of the trees and lack of hole previews or background documentation.
Appearance  5/10
This hasn't aged as well as I'd hoped. The stock textures are very obvious in their lack of features and blending, although the planting shows a sure hand and is pretty clone-free. It's also notable that a lot of the course is very flat and featureless, when a forest course would notably lend itself to humps and hollows.
Playability  6/10
Fun at first, and I won't deny that there's a fair deal of subtlety on these designs, but there's not enough to really challenge your approach and the monotony will sink in at around the 13th or 14th hole. The course has done well to remain playable, though, and that shouldn't be held against it.
Challenge  9/10
Selecting reasonable conditions will show up this course's true strength: the fact that it has maintained a good test, even if the looks are dated. Sure, a few greens are tough, but the bunkers are well-placed and a challenging recovery, and even wild drives into the forest can usually be safely chipped out in one - a trait sadly not shared by later courses. Blackclough is worth keeping for this trait alone.
Technical  6/10
The attention to planting still holds up very well, and the water and sand are done competently, even with the stock textures. The hole design is old-fashioned but very convincing. At the time, this was excellent work; it would still be considered more than competent now.
Overall Looking very hackneyed in parts now, but a carefully designed course which will still provide a decent test. 31/50
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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