I re­ally en­joy play­ing tougher cour­ses, but they have to be imag­i­na­tive and in­ter­est­ing, not just bru­tally long!

Golf World (UK) - - CONTENTS -

Some of the best cour­ses aren’t the long­est, ex­plains Rose. Our star man tells us why he prefers an imag­i­na­tive and in­ter­est­ing de­sign.

Ev­ery golfer has their course pref­er­ences. We all have cer­tain styles that we favour and re­ally suit our eye and game. In terms of the chal­lenge, I re­ally like the kind of cour­ses we played re­cently like the Cop­per­head at In­nis­brook (Valspar Cham­pi­onship) and Bay Hill (Arnold Palmer In­vi­ta­tional) where the win­ning score is usu­ally around 10-un­der-par. If you play amaz­ing golf you can shoot seven-un­der for a round, but if you play good solid golf and shoot even par you’ll hold your po­si­tion in the tour­na­ment.

I’ve al­ways played well at Jack Nick­laus-de­signed golf cour­ses. Me­mo­rial, for in­stance, is a sec­ond-shot course where the fair­ways are wide enough and then it be­comes about the qual­ity and pre­ci­sion of your iron play.

How a course is de­signed and set up to test the best golfers is the big ques­tion. It’s nor­mally through the firm­ness and speed of the greens be­cause that re­ally de­ter­mines where you can and can’t miss. When the greens are firm and fast, it can make it very dif­fi­cult to chip the ball close even with a slight slope.

You can have lots of rough too, but that’s a bit more of con­trived. Thick and deep rough around the greens used to be stan­dard on the PGA Tour but I feel like that’s changing and there are a lot more run-offs and dif­fer­ent kinds of chip­ping ar­eas now. The ball can dis­ap­pear 30 or 40 yards away from the flag some­times if you miss the green now rather than just stop­ping in that chop-out rough. That thick rough is ac­tu­ally a bit eas­ier to get the ball up-and-down from than some tighter lies, es­pe­cially Bermuda grass, which re­ally grabs the blade even when it’s mown short. I think this change has mostly been driven by a move to­wards more en­vi­ron­men­tally-con­scious green­keep­ing and ac­cep­tance from TV view­ers of cour­ses look­ing a bit brown if they’re go­ing for that firm and fast style.

If you don’t have clever de­sign fea­tures then you’re limited to adding yardage to make a course more dif­fi­cult be­cause the sec­ond shot will be com­ing from a longer dis­tance so the land­ing an­gle won’t be as steep and this makes it harder to con­trol the ball on the green. But there’s no doubt some of the best cour­ses aren’t the long­est. For ex­am­ple, Me­rion was un­der 7,000 yards for the 2013 US Open and it held up re­ally well with a one-over win­ning score. Stretch­ing cour­ses isn’t al­ways pop­u­lar but we’re more ath­letic and hit­ting it fur­ther. We’re go­ing into a 460-yard par 4 with a 9-iron rather than a 5-iron th­ese days, so there has to be a cer­tain amount of length.

Hav­ing said that, some of the great holes in the world are of­ten the shorter ones. The risk-and-re­ward par 4s and the iconic par 3s like the 12th at Au­gusta and the Postage Stamp at Royal Troon come to mind. There’s a lot of talk about how long is too long for a par 3, but my take is that it’s too long if the green isn’t re­cep­tive to the shot you have to hit into it. I don’t re­ally have a prob­lem with long par 3s if they’re de­signed ap­pro­pri­ately, like a redan hole where you can hit the ball up the right side and feed it onto the green – those are de­signed to take run­ning shots from longer clubs. But any time you have a forced carry and have to stop the ball quickly, I think any­thing more than 200 yards is re­ally too long.

I love the aes­thet­ics of what Bill Coore and Ben Cren­shaw do – that sandy, nat­u­ral look. I re­ally love play­ing that style of course. I think it comes back to the Sur­rey sand belt cour­ses that I grew up play­ing. I don’t think there’s any bet­ter golf than cour­ses like Wal­ton Heath, Sun­ning­dale and St Ge­orge’s Hill in the UK. Pine Val­ley in Amer­ica, which is widely ranked as the num­ber one course in the world, has el­e­ments of that and is very much a Sun­ning­dalestyle course but on a slightly big­ger scale.

When it came to choos­ing where I wanted to host the Bri­tish Mas­ters, the course was the most im­por­tant thing. Wal­ton Heath was an ob­vi­ous choice for me as it ticks all the boxes – it looks fan­tas­tic and it will re­ally test us with­out be­ing mas­sively long be­cause it will play firm and fast and the lay­out puts a pre­mium on course man­age­ment.

Justin Rose is a US Open cham­pion and Olympic gold medal­list who has played on the PGA and Euro­pean Tours for 18 years.

‘Wal­ton Heath ticks all the boxes – it looks fan­tas­tic and will re­ally test us with­out be­ing mas­sively long’

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