Culbeck Heath G.C. - Ver2
by Alan Toft
|Links Corner Course Database ID Number - 779
||Culbeck Heath.G.C. Ver2.crz
LINKS CORNER REVIEW
Additional Review by James Wood
Course type: 'Culbeck Heath is a fictional course set in the English countryside,' begins the brief read-me file included in the course download. And 'English countryside course' says it about as well as anything: this is not exactly a woodland course and not exactly a parkland course, but it is absolutely convincing in its English countryside feel.
Historical perspective: While Culbeck Heath is only Alan's second APCD offering, it is immediately apparent, as it was with Blacklough Forest, that he is no ordinary designer. In fact, Alan had already achieved quite a reputation for himself designing courses for the PGA series before he turned to the APCD. Of course, most of us did not know all that when Blacklough Forest was released at the end of July 2001. All we knew (indeed, all we really cared about) was that it was a special course not really like any other. It achieved a 4-star user rating and garnered an LC review score of 86, and even now I consider it the best example of an English woodland course that has yet been created for Links.
It was with great anticipation, then, that Culbeck Heath was awaited, and, upon its release on February 15, 2002, it initially seemed to meet those high expectations, at least for those who kept the ball in the fairway. Those who took the road less traveled, however, quickly discovered that the deep grass was afflicted with the 'steel weed' syndrome that had previously plagued such esteemed venues as Xilver Plaine and Gut Larchenhof. Fortunately, the cure for that disease is, by now, well known. Culbeck Heath was withdrawn and, two days after the initial release, replaced by the version which is the subject of this review. As of this writing, it is also faring quite well in the user opinion poll (4 stars on 19 votes), and it has also been selected as a Links Corner Recommended course.
What is included: In addition to the brief read-me file, the usual cameo and splash screen are included (the latter being a stylistic companion to its Blacklough Forest predecessor). Regrettably, there are no hole previews - unusual for courses of this overall quality, but not for courses of this file size. On the other hand, the course plays in a very straightforward manner, relying on the artistry of its design rather than gimmicks for its challenge, so the lack of hole previews does not cause too much of a disadvantage even for those who play without the top camera.
First impressions: From the elevated tee box on the first hole, you find yourself looking down a fairway that is crowded rather closely on either side by areas of foot-high brownish grass and dense but scrubby trees, giving the course sort of an untamed look. A stream burbles by in front of you, flowing from a small lake out of your field of view to the left. Behind you is the clubhouse, and to your right is a practice green (yes, you can drag your ball over to it and putt). To your right and ahead is a driving range (here, too) with covered tee boxes. It feels like the English countryside, all right, and seems to be a very inviting venue for a round of golf.
What comes next: If you liked the first hole, then you will surely like the rest of the course, because it maintains a high level of stylistic consistency and impeccable finish throughout. If, on the other hand, you did not like the first hole. well, there is just no accounting for taste, is there? But it would be hard to imagine someone not liking a course of this level of merit: the APCD work is flawless, the textures and colors fit exceptionally well, and the planting is wonderfully natural. The wooden fences and stone walls that grace several of the holes are also worthy of mention, as is the stream that winds its way along and across the course (although it must be said that its sound and its appearance are not always perfectly synchronized). In short, Culbeck Heath looks satisfyingly real.
There is a real consistency to the design philosophy as well. Holes tend to play straight ahead or with very gentle doglegs, so the driver is rarely taken out of your hands perforce, although the wisdom of its use may vary considerably depending on conditions and your playing style. The fairways themselves are not particularly narrow, but safe landing areas do not extend much past their width because the collar of rough that separates them from the deep grass is not generous. Moreover, the deep grass itself is more treacherous than usual because of the likelihood that your lie there will also be behind one of the small shrubs that populate it; often, your only playable shot will be sideways to the fairway. These characteristics do not render the course unplayable at the higher difficulty levels, but they do put a premium on a consistent snap.
The nicely finished bunkers tend to be rather small. On first glance, this would seem to be an advantage, because of the correspondingly smaller chance of landing in one. On balance, the equation is not so simple, however: their small size pretty much guarantees a sloping lie within them, sometimes dramatically so, and this substantially diminishes the chance that you will be able to go for the pin if you find one of them off the tee.
The greens seem to me to strike a near perfect balance between opportunity and challenge. They are rarely flat, but, appropriately, the larger they are, the flatter. Consequently, the break on the really long putts is relatively easier to judge. But even with the smaller, more undulating greens, the slopes are realistic. And you will be happy to find that, even with difficult pins, the hole placements are in relatively flat areas. The overall effect is that you always feel that you have a chance on the greens, but you rarely have a putt of more than a few feet that you can hit with nonchalance. Supremely satisfying!
Successful play is largely a function of avoiding the deep grass. This will sometimes mean that choice of club is dictated more by control than distance, but, other than for the purpose of reaching the green in two on a par-5, your driver in particular is not absolutely necessary off the tee. Two of the par-5's (#9 and #13) are not reachable from the back tees in any circumstances, and only #4 offers what I would consider to be a good eagle opportunity. But every hole offers a reasonable chance for birdie as long as you keep your ball on the short grass.
Rest assured also that the consistency of the design never leads to a feeling of sameness. Each hole offers its on challenges and rewards, but, to a greater extent than is often the case, every hole is unmistakably part of the same course.
The bottom line: A lovely, lovingly executed, and entirely convincing course of great subtlety, Culbeck Heath may lack the overt pizazz of some venues, but should prove ultimately more satisfying in the long run precisely because its appeal is not based on surface glamour. It deserves to be on every hard drive, and it will most certainly remain on mine.
James Wood' thoughts..
A nice layout here by the designer of Blackclough Forest this course is missing a few niceties that would have been nice to see. There are no hole previews and the panorama is stock and doesn't quite seem to fit the locale. The bunkers have a dirt lip that is unmapped and other than this missing feature the APCD work is very good. Planting consists of grasses and old gnarly trees. An old forest type of look was done here with the addition of some split rail fences. A stream with ponds runs through the entire course and comes into play on many occasions. Excellent cart paths also wind their way through the course.
Tips for Playing the Course
The course plays fair for all types of players.
The problems you may encounter are the medium to difficult green contours but you can score well here.
A few highlights:
Hole #4 Par 5
A reachable par 5 with good risk/reward the green is protected by the stream running down the left hand side.
Hole #8 Par 3
A nice downhill par 3. A well struck 5I landed me a birdie of 3.2 ft.
Hole #9 Par 5
Unfortunately no shot at getting to this long hole in two. A 4I layup leaves a SW into the green.
Hole #13 Par 5
Again no shot at getting home with a leave of around 280yds after a solid drive. Another 4I leaves another SW into the green.
Hole #18 Par 5
Good finishing hole that you can go for with Driver/Driver is you want to take a shot at this large green.
Hole 12 Par 3. A nice looking par 3 that suddenly opens up to a different look at the course.
A few more additions here and this one could have ranked up with the best of this months current crop. Maybe a little help next time with the additions that put a course over the top might be in order. Alan knows how to lay a course out and how to do some very nice planting. This is a good course to try out and a good bookend to Blackclough which is one of my favorites.
Course Statistics :
Par 72; 3 sets of tees, from which 4 distances may be selected; 7217 yards from back 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.
Fictional, heathland course
Culbeck Heath is allegedly an English countryside course, but is more reminiscent of an Australian bush course than perhaps its designer intended. Holes cut their way through long yellow grass and scrubby trees impinge tightly on nearly every hole. A consistent feature, probably a bit too consistent, is that of long, straight holes cut to tight fairways. Hazards are nicely done overall and do not overwhelm the other factors of the play. There's an indefinable spark missing here, though: nothing serious, but it does keep the course out of the top drawer.
There's actually quite a lot to look at on what might otherwise be a flawed course. Although the textures are largely stock, they are put together well, and the bunkers are carefully sculpted. Extra features such as fences, ballwashers and bins are placed judiciously but noticeably. The panorama is flawed, though, being a complete misfit for the terrain. It might have been best omitted altogether.
The course lets itself down when it comes to the play. Nearly all holes are one-route and most are arrow-straight. Thrilling it isn't, and the lack of first-cut becomes even more of a problem when you continually miss the narrow fairways. This course rapidly becomes hard work rather than a fun round of golf.
Shots will always be dropped at Culbeck Heath due to the easiness of losing the ball in the rough and trees. But some gently landscaped greens give you plenty of opportunity to make them up, and birdies are tough but possible. The course is a shade too hard on the whole, especially for those playing at Champ level or with strong wind.
Some advanced seam blends would assist the appearance of this course no end. Otherwise, this is a well put together course, with elevations and planting being pretty spot on. It would be a shame if the designer didn't move into custom objects and textures, though; these are currently what holds his designs back.
||A good-looking course, and a showcase for its designer's skill, but lacking the finesse and excitement of the very best courses.
|This course is available as a FREE download.
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