Each year since 2000 i have been reviewing APCD released course designs and have awarded my personal favourite with the course of the year award. My selection is based on technical design, visual beauty and interest and course lay out and playability. Updates to courses are eligible for consideration providing they have not already been mentioned in the award winners or runner up lists in a previous year. Here are the courses and designers that have won the special award.
2015. Bull Run – Eddie Schmidt
This year was a slightly better year for the number of quality releases, and the best two courses were very close. Bull Run is a design by Eddie Schmidt dating back to 2004 and was a pay to play only course until now. This course has received a nice make-over, with new textures and some noticeable planting changes around the lakes. It was already a top class course, but it is now even better and more readily available. It has a lovely lay out winding within the pine forest, with small lakes and log cabins around to add extra interest, and undergrowth planting here is really good. The designer has given us a number of great courses and is a deserving winner of the award. The runner up goes to Campo El Punetero by McCoist which is dry mediterranean style course, complete with lovely blue lakes, rocky outcrops and amazing colour and planting. It is a tough choice between them, but i just think the more relaxed lay out of Bull Run edges it. A special mention goes to Six Mile Lake Winter edition also by McCoist which with its snowy textures is just so different to other courses and is one that with a bit more depth and detail could have pushed for the award.
2014. Wentworth – Curt Simms
Wentworth by Curt Simms was in beta form for many years before finally being completed during this year. It is one of the best European courses on the tour circuit and this re-creation is just beautifully realistic with some amazing close tree planting. It becomes the first European real course award winner since Munchen Nord back in 2000. It was a very close call though between this and Blackwolf Run by Matthew Rose, which is arguably more fun to play and has some amazing visual appeal especially with the rivers winding around the greens. However the familiar rendition of Wentworth just edged home this year for the technique and naturalism, with Blackwolf Run the runner up.
2013. TPC at Boston – Steve Avery
This was a year mainly for course upgrades and there were not too many first time releases to make the shortlist. Steve Avery is a prolific designer with a number of great releases, and his style sets up a very neat and almost scenic approach to designing, and with a texture change and seam blend update for his TPC at Boston course it was the best course released / re-released in the year. It always was a top class course, and is just a little bit better now. Stuart Kahle was an early designer for the links game, creating a number of Australian courses in 2001, and his upgrade with Matt Mcintosh to Heritage On Southbank is drastic and manages to feel a little different from other courses around, with a mix of scrub and desert, and with sheep in good measure too. A great design and the runner up spot for this year.
2012. Whistling Straits – Robert Miller
A great year for high quality releases again, with Robert Miller designing the amazing Whilstling Straits and Engineers courses, and with Paul Seaman giving us his best design to date in Carlyon Lakes. Then late on Stewart Parker made a late bid with the much awaited St Andrews Old Course. It was Whistling Straits that has captured me the most and has stood the test of time, with its coastal cliffside holes, abundant sand dune bunkers and wild grass. It is a masterpiece of design and truly challenges players to the extent you will feel exhausted after a round here. Engineers was the designers other great release with a unique summer and fall edition available. St Andrews Old Course is such a welcome and long awaited design and is so exciting to have that Stewart Parker has captured the runner up spot.
2011. Turnberry – Stewart Parker
Once again it seemed that a December release had been saved to snatch the award at the end of the year. This year it was Huntingdale Golf Club by Jason Thorpe which is a real course design from Melbourne, Australia. It was a really close decision as this had amazing ground level texturing and a planting of a great tree palette producing a quality finish all round, and with a neat loading screen too. However the test of time has gone to Turnberry, The Ailsa Course by Stewart Parker whose tournament option makes it one of the very best links courses available and it is lovely to look at with wild grasses framing the panoramic sea and coastline views. It is awarded the title with Huntingdale a close runner up.
2010. Pine Valley – Robert Miller
For most of the year there was a clear leader as Robert Miller led the way with the recreation of the long awaited Pine Valley. I cant think of another real course that would have received a better reception from the links community at the time it was released, and this is an immaculate version. Visually this is a stunning, the course winding between the pine trees and split by some of the best dirt and sand waste areas, with lakes and split fairways a common feature. However Mike Jones with his Christmas release of Royal Kenya Country Club almost stole the award at the death but ultimately settled for the runner up slot.
2009. Pilgrim Trails – Mike Jones
There was a head to head clash of the titans for the 2009 title as Mike Jones returned after a long break to release Pilgrim Trails, and Robert Miller aimed for a hatrick of wins with a remake of Bethpage Black. Both designs were definately amongst the best of all time and would have made great winners, but in the end it was the fictional Pilgrim Trails that edged home for Mike’s 4th award title. This fir tree lined course is exemplary, with superb textures, beautiful colours and a clever lay out. This one has more natural beauty and less thrills than some of Mike’s other releases and is certainly one of his crowning achievements. Bethpage Black was the design runner up.
2008. Pinehurst #2 – Robert Miller
Robert Miller has become the recent star of APCD designing, following up his 2007 Course of the Year award with a successive win, this time with Pinehurst #2. Given that this real course was pretty high on many peoples most wanted list gives it a great platform, but the way this has been re-created with such detail, superb red pine textures, and those trademark domed greens is an outstanding achievement. The contrast of the red pine against the green fairways is just beautiful. This will remain one of the all time great course designs in a year that started to show signs that numbers of new course designs were slowing. The runner up was a lovely lush green replication of Cog Hill (Dubsdread) by Tim Hagen.
2007. Shinnecock Hills – Robert Miller
An emerging designer Robert Miller won his first award with the realism and accuracy of Shinnecock Hills which is an astounding design, being so detailed, having neat real touches like sprinkler heads and worn textures and a wonderful natural playability. The grass patchwork effects adds real depth and the excellent clubhouse with 3d outbuildings raise this to the highest level. It is an open looking, fantastic design and one we are also familiar with as a majors venue. It has since been updated too and is now even better, becoming one of the top releases of all time. Westchester Country Club by Steve Avery was the worthy runner up.
2006. Crooked Creek – Wayne Hewitt
A year for great real course releases including the high quality of The Inverness Club by Bruce Ditmyer and Harbour Town by Eddie Schmidt. However, it was a fictional course which stood out above them all to deservedly claim the award. Crooked Creek is a masterpeice in all aspects, an Australian sandbelt course with amazingly real planting and breathtaking views with an superb panorama and clubhouse. This design finally gave Wayne Hewitt the award he clearly deserved after the close runs of Tall Pines Estate and Wagga Wagga. The runner up was the lovely real course rendition of Inverness Club by Bruce Ditmyer.
2005. Pebble Beach – Chuck Clark
Cara Brae by Mike Jones was a final developement of his amazing links and coastline skills and whilst this was the highest technicial quality course release of 2005, in the final decision however it was the communal popularity and real life accuracy and enjoyment of Pebble Beach by Chuck Clark that stole the award. Being such a high profile major venue this just has that extra factor of drawing you back so many times for a replay, and edged out the brilliant Cara Brae by a whisker. Pebble Beach is one of the greatest real life venues and this version is a fantastic replica and simply majestic to play.
2004. Augusta National – Andrew Jones
This year was also crammed full of amazing courses including Bull Run by Eddie Schmidt, Crystal Pines and Las Joyas both by Mike Jones and Wagga Wagga by Wayne Hewitt. But in late December of this year came perhaps the most awaited course of all time, Augusta National by Andrew Jones, a design aided by Wayne Hewitt, Mike Jones and Anders Bessermann. It’s accuracy is astounding, and the course has a beauty already assured by the real venue. It also gave the game a new lease of life being packaged with the 1.06 modification. Despite such strong depth of releases it was the winner, with the joint runners up from Mike Jones with Crystal Pines and also Wayne Hewitt with Wagga Wagga. This was the best year ever for course releases.
2003. Burn’s Old Links – Mike Jones
On the back of the Links 2003 box release, this was a really strong year for the number of top class releases. Tall Pines Estate by Wayne Hewitt, Brabazon at The Belfry by The Dark Horse Team and Brookline by Eddie Schmidt were all Course of the Year quality. However it was Burn’s Old Links by Mike Jones that became a firm favourite amongst so many players, a links course in the traditional old style with wooden boarded bunkers, many routes available from tee to green and an astounding landscape of rolls and dips. It remains a phenomenon in terms of lay-out and strategy that set it apart from all the amazing courses also released that year. The runner up designs went jointly to Merion East by Dexter Gresh and Wayne Hewitt with Tall Pines Estate in such a competitive year. Looking back now i would be very hard pushed to choose between these three courses as my favourite.
2002. Royal County Kilderry – Mike Jones
Mike Jones continued to develop as the most established designer of this time. Building on his opening links style course of Northern Dunes he created another groundbreaking links course called Royal County Kilderry. Everything about this pushed the boundaries a little more, from the ground level grasses and planting to the rolling links farmland landscape. The railway line at the back of the 8th remains a unique feature rarely surpassed. In a neat link the clubhouse was provided by Guenter Kujat the 2000 winning designer. There were many other strong designs that contested the title including the joint runners up in Shadowlands, also by Mike Jones and Medinah No.3 by John Pineda. If i look back over 10 years later, given the various updates made to these designs, and subsequent other releases, i would have to stand Shadowlands as my current favourite.
2001. Pacific Breaks – Mike Jones
Throughout 2001 the amazing and revolutionary links style course of Northern Dunes by Mike Jones looked odds on for the Course of the Year title. However in December of this year, the same designer released a course that would visually change coastlines forever. Pacific Breaks was born, close in style to the great Pebble Beach and at times a scary course to play. Never had the cliffs and coastline looked so realistic or played so much a part in the hazards of the game. The course has now been revamped for Links 2003, and it remains one of the all time inspirational designs that laid down its mark in the game’s history for others to follow. The runner up design was Northen Dunes.
2000. Munchen Nord, Eichenried – Guenter Kujat
This is the course that really set the standard quality benchmark for all those that have come since. Just a couple of months after Links 2001 itself was released, this European course followed, having been developed during beta testing of the game. With its subsequent updates, Munchen Nord remains one of the most realistic looking courses ever made, and is very accurate to the real tournament venue. Its tournament option with crowds and advertising boards again set such high standards that few compare well to it even now. For European players in particular it will feel so much like playing a round on your local course. It came packaged with an amazing video preview and to be honest nothing came even close to this course for the 2000 year award.