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Look-Alike Links

Can't Make It to Augusta or St. Andrews? Not a Problem
Larry Olmsted
From the Print Edition:
Raquel Welch, Jul/Aug 01

(continued from page 1)

Replica courses are just what the name implies, re-creations, often described as "simulations" of or "inspired by" (for legal reasons) existing holes. None built to date copy an entire course. Instead, they collect great golf holes with a theme of famous courses or famous architects. Some mix a handful of replica holes with original designs.

Tribute courses are a newer phenomenon, featuring holes done in the style of renowned architects or courses, borrowing the philosophy and some design elements without duplicating holes in cookie-cutter fashion. It has become trendy recently, with not one but two new courses intended as tributes to architects Seth Raynor and Charles Blair MacDonald, who collaborated on courses such as Bermuda's MidOcean, the Yale University Golf Course, Piping Rock and the National Golf Links. Another new tribute course is an homage to great British Open layouts, without any direct replications. Tom Fazio's two courses at World Woods Golf Club in Brooksville, Florida, are homages to the terrain and style of Augusta and Pine Valley, again without copying individual holes. One ambitious project in New Jersey attempts to pay tribute to 18 different golf architects.

Finally, there are hybrids, blurring the line between tribute and replica. Jack Nicklaus's New Course at Grand Cypress in Orlando, Florida, features replicas of the first and last holes from the Old Course at St. Andrews, plus 16 more done in a Scottish tribute style. Florida's RLR Golden Ocala has eight replica holes plus a composite hole "patterned after" three holes at Pine Valley. A second Ocala layout in the works will follow this "pattern" of borrowing elements rather than holes from existing layouts.

None of these courses, no matter how well intentioned, is a perfect re-creation. You may be able to duplicate the Postage Stamp flawlessly five miles down the Ayrshire coast, but you simply cannot do it in Las Vegas. For one thing, there is no ocean. Neighbors might complain when invasive gorse spreads into their gardens. Fescue grasses can grow on the Oregon coast and the shores of the Great Lakes, but almost nowhere else in the United States.

Likewise, the vast majority of the courses worthy of copying lie north of the Snowbelt, and have bent-grass greens. Most of the replicas are in warmer locales where Bermuda grass is used. In any case, a perfect replica would require 18 completely different greens, with different grasses, different levels of watering, different soil compositions for each fairway, and different species of trees on every hole. Standing on the tee of the Royal Links's Postage Stamp in Las Vegas, the hole looks remarkably similar to the real thing¿but the green is slightly larger. Likewise, Royal Links chose not to dig its St. Andrews Hell Bunker quite so deep. Why the changes? According to my caddie, the original holes are too hard and would slow the pace of play. But land in the Nevada Hell Bunker, and you will still experience the frustration of the real thing. It may not be a great replica, but it is a very good one.

"Las Vegas is not the Monterey Peninsula," says architect Fought, who laid out the Cloud Nine replica course at Angel Park in Las Vegas. "Even by Las Vegas standards, it would have been too expensive to replicate these holes. The island hole is similar to Sawgrass, but the green is a different size. The Postage Stamp is not an exact replica, but it is very similar."

Similar enough so that all but the most uptight golfers will enjoy these efforts. If world-class restaurants like Le Cirque 2000 and Lutece can spin off Vegas versions, why can't St. Andrews? If Olives celebrity chef Todd English can open a restaurant in Myrtle Beach, why shouldn't World Tour Golf Links reproduce 27 great holes there? As World Tour's director of golf, Rick Shoemaker says, "Our Augusta number 12 is as close to identical as could be, but for number 11, we just don't have as much elevation drop, so ours plays a little longer. But even Augusta changes their course all the time. And look at Doral. They've redone the course twice recently. If you come here expecting to play the exact holes, you're missing the point; but it's still fun. We're trying to bring a rare, unexpected experience to the average golfer." Hard to argue with that.

If you can't get to the original courses, here's where to go to find the next best thing:

THE REPLICAS

Cloud 9


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