Royal Fiji Resort
by Stuart Kahle
|Links Corner Course Database ID Number - 578
LINKS CORNER REVIEW
|Reviewed by Mike Nifong
Course type: Royal Fiji Resort is a fictional, tropical course located in a coastal area (presumably, the coast of Fiji).
Historical perspective: Stuart Kahle is one of the more prolific designers working with the APCD, with eleven courses (not counting revisions) to his credit. Unlike some other prolific designers, however, Stuart is known for creating courses of real quality: three of his designs have achieved Links Corner review scores of 80 or higher and 4-star user ratings, those being Commonwealth Golf Club, Great Southern Aurora, and The Heritage on South Bank. The latter two have also been widely acclaimed as providing tremendous value for their file sizes (7.2MB and 12.2MB, respectively). Royal Fiji, the tenth of Stuart's eleven designs, was released on September 18, 2001, during a time when most of us were still preoccupied with matters of a graver nature. In the user review ratings, it has attained three stars (70-79%). For many members of this community, Stuart's later courses are in the automatic download category, and his last eight offerings have found their way into my permanent collection.
If you are familiar with Stuart's best courses, you may feel a slight twinge of deja vu when you play this one. Not because it bears a cosmetic resemblance to any of them (in fact, it does not), but because Royal Fiji is in essence The Heritage on South Bank dressed up in brighter colors for a warmer climate. That concept is not unique to this course - Eddie Schmidt's Clubcito Diablo was essentially, as he put it, 'Southern Pines with palm trees instead of pine trees' - but I was surprised to note that Royal Fiji was actually the first such attempt, beating Clubcito by one week.
What is included: The 9.4MB file size comes at a price: no read-me file, no hole previews, just the customary cameo and splash screen.
First impressions: Your initial view is of a wide and open fairway, although from the back tees a stand of trees just to your right will probably require you to fade your tee shot. The fairway and rough are of nicely contrasting lush greens, and the rough does not look too threatening. The tee boxes are of a lighter color and finer texture. Planting is restrained in extent, but colorful. Overall, the impression totally befits the setting. The initial rise of the fairway obscures from view the two round bunkers located and shaped so as to attract the long tee shot down the middle. In the absence of hole previews, a glance at the top camera is probably advisable.
What comes next: As was often the case with coastal-area courses until recently, no pano is used, so any view that includes the ocean on the horizon will also contain that much-maligned pale blue band between the ocean and the sky. That actually happens less often than you might expect on this course (at least in the main view) because of the use of subtle but effective elevation changes, but you will likely see it from the fairway and the green on #1, and it is the first indication that this course does not achieve the current state of the art (not that you would expect it too at this file size). The second is the ocean itself, which is of a fairly anonymous texture without any of the custom touches you might find in, for instance, a Mike Jones course. But the real problem with the ocean is in the areas where it touches the land. There is no shore - none. No sand, no rocks, nothing. And to make it worse, the grass goes right down to the water's edge, as if it were fresh water. Admittedly, this has no effect on the play of the course, but one must wonder why, if a designer chooses to place a course at the edge of the ocean, he would make it look so un-oceanlike. (By the way, I considered the possibility that it really was supposed to be fresh water, as unlikely as that would make the blank horizon, but the texture is, in fact labeled 'ocean.')
The good news is that, apart from these quibbles (and maybe the feeling that the tee box texture is a little too washed out looking), there is very little to complain about. The overall finish of the course is excellent, and the planting, while often colorful - check out those red trees! - does not go over the top. The bunkers are nicely done, most of them having a low but distinct sod wall, creating the potential for some difficult lies and consequently troublesome extractions.
The majority of the holes are laid out in some variety of dogleg, but the only real significance that has is that few of the tee shots offer a view of the pin. You are never forced to lay up, because the trees never form a solid wall and are often of modest height, enabling you to go over or around them -- sometimes hitting a fade off the tee, sometimes cutting the corner. Because there is no under planting to speak of, no deep grass, and wide areas of rather forgiving rough, few of these shots will get you into a lot of trouble even if you miss the generous fairways; occasionally you will risk hitting through the fairway into a bunker if you don't take an aggressive enough bite off the angle. As you might imagine, this means that the course plays a little easy for pro clickers at the more moderate settings. I averaged -11 with breezy/moderate/moderate/difficult settings, and even when I tweaked it up to windy/m/m/d, I still managed a -7, albeit the shots coming more frequently from the rough. The openness of this course, incidentally, makes it well suited to playing in adverse conditions or higher difficulty levels (i.e., champ click or powerstroke); you should at least give it a try under windy conditions.
The good scores come despite the excellent greens, which, at difficult pin settings, can be pretty challenging without being unfair. They tend to be large, especially on the longer holes, with natural but not inconsiderable slope, which means you will often face medium to long putts with quite a bit of break, especially when the pins are placed away from the centers of the greens. And for some reason, they seemed a little bit faster or more slippery than expected given the speed settings (maybe it was just me). All in all, a very pleasurable putting experience.
The course seems to play a little shorter than its 7200-yard length. All three of the par-5's are reachable in two from the back tees, although #17 is a bit of a stretch if you are playing into the wind. #8 is also a drivable (or almost drivable) par-4, even from the back tees. Although you have to play over the water to a sloped bank, I never got wet, and I always wound up either on the fringe or with a good enough position in the rough to be chipping for the eagle.
The bottom line: This is a good-to-very-good course that had the misfortune to follow on the heels of two excellent courses in Stuart Kahle's canon, and it suffers a little in comparison. Moreover, unlike the case with Southern Pines and Clubcito Diablo, where the basic course layout fit equally well in either setting, this particular layout was close to perfect in its original guise as The Heritage on South Bank but seems a little bland in its new surroundings. So, while Heritage remains, in my opinion, an absolutely essential course for everyone, this is more a matter of taste: if you like colorful, well-finished, tropical courses with greens that somehow seem a little slick, or if you play champ click or powerstroke, this course could be just the ticket. The rest of you could probably get by without it, but at only 9.4MB, there is really no reason not to give it a try.
Course Info :
Cameo Screen? Yes
Splash Screen? Yes
Text file? No
Hole Previews? No
Reviewed February 2002
|This course is available as a FREE download.
Please support Links Corner