Crusaders Games

Real Course Designs

The Arnold Palmer Course Designer allowed designers to use their own creativity to reproduce some fantastic real life courses to play with in Links 2003. This features a top 10 list of real venues that you really must try, out of all those that are available. Selections to this list are based upon the notoriety of the course, design quality, visuals and playability, alongside a requirement for a balanced list of course types. There are 30 more here > Older Real Courses Profiles

1. Augusta National – Andrew Jones                       

Augusta National is a US pine forest course and is one of the most famous golfing venue in the world, host to The Masters major championship event and ranked 1st on the golf digest US list. Hardly any other course has had more care and attention lavished upon it to make it as accurate and as immersive as this one. Visually this is beautiful, its manicured look has been recaptured with excellent textures and blending. Enclosing the fairways are the tall pine trees, with splashes of bright colour from magnolia bushes, and small pink and white blossomed trees will be glimpsed to the edges of the holes, it really is a stunning sight. The whole design and lay out is extremely accurate and captures the severe elevations of the course. White sand bunkers, doglegs and water hazards guard the tough greens. This course is extremely challenging to play within Links given the driver distances, and it can sometimes be frustrating and stressful, just like it is in real life. However the more you know it the better you will potentially to score. Never has a real course demanded so much from the designers due to its television coverage and full justice has been done.


2. Shinnecock Hills – Robert Miller                         

Shinnecock Hills Golf Club is a prestigious US links style golf club located in Southampton on Long Island, New York and is ranked 4th on the golf digest US course list, and has hosted the US Open four times. It is famous for the grand clubhouse which stands proudly visible over the rolling prairie like course. This course by Robert Miller uses his planting style to special effect and is clearly suited to the rolling open landscape of waving grasses on the links style, it is inspired and stunning to look at. A nice selection of trees provide the backdrop at the fringes of the design, and with the occasional unique fairway or green tee-side tree. The clubhouse and other buildings are amazing, and really makes this course extra special. Playing the course is great fun, in true links style, your positional play is important and it definately benefits from a touch of wind blowing from the north-east. This course is just so realistic looking, with nice rope style bridges, rugged bunkers and fencing, but does not come with loads of extra frills, just a very natural open links view of rolling grassland framing the fairways, and i love it.


3. Pebble Beach – Chuck Clark                               

Pebble Beach is a US coastline course and another one of the most famous courses in the world and is set around Stillwater cove in California. It is ranked at 7th on golf digests US course list. It is a regular tournament venue for the US Open, boasting mature trees, tricky roller coaster greens and large bunkers, and uses the natural coastline location as direct hazards for a number of its awesome holes. Visually this course is one of the most impressive and beautiful in the world, with dramatic sea views creating a unique atmosphere. This course famously features an amazing run of cliffside holes from the 5th hole through to the 10th, returning again for a most famous drive in golf at the 18th. This recreation is extremely accurate and outstandingly beautiful too, complete with superb planting at ground level and fabulous buildings throughout. The cliffside holes and views across the cove are magnificent. The greens here are often small, and the rough set deep according to US Open traditions. A wonderful design for one of the greatest courses of the world.

4. Turnberry / St Andrews Old – Stewart Parker 

Turnberry is a Scottish cliffside links course and has spectacular holes and sea views. It is therefore one of the most interesting real life links courses visually. The designer Stewart Parker has released a number of Scottish links courses over the years, with Royal Troon and St Andrews Old courses amongst his most famous releases. The Turnberry course has deep bunkers, beautifully created, fairly tight fairways and deep tall grass. The close proximity to the sea cliffs does make this rather special, it looks great and also plays quite tough as the fairways are relatively narrow, but its length helps as you can avoid the driver on many holes. The design of St Andrews Old course is arguably the more obvious choice for a shortlist like this one, given its familiarity and such famous holes. The designer has managed to produce a superb version of the course and whilst it may not be as pretty as Turnberry to look around, it is so much fun to play based on your knowledge of the real thing. I have therefore cheated by including both together on this list, which one i choose to play will depend day to day.


5. Merion East – Dexter Gresh                                  

Merion Golf Club is a US woodland course found in Pennsylvania is ranked 5th on golf digest US list. By todays standards this is a relatively short course, however its history and status as a top competition venue is assured. Dexter Gresh has put immense care and attention to all the detail that has gone into this creation, from the superb set of tree objects including many wonderful custom made ones, through the excellent use of different ground textures and a patchwork of different wild dune grass plantings. Double track paths wind around the holes. It is truely realistic, and the water textures used for the rivers, and worn grass around the bunkers are fabulous. A lovely clubhouse area is viewed alongside the opening hole, and the other excellent main buildings around the course also add to the experience, with a main road also coming into view from time to time. Whilst the course is quite short, its par 70 ensures that it is no easy task to score well on, and the close proximity of trees and deep grass will always prove a threat to wayward shots. The course contains a lovely mix of straight holes, or left and right doglegs, with also a number of narrowing fairways to make the more daring drivers think twice, and it just plays so well and feels just right.


6. Wagga Wagga – Wayne Hewitt                           

Wagga Wagga Country Club is an Australian woodland course from New South Wales, Australia. What will strike you immediately you start playing is the detail to which the course has been recreated, not just what you can see in front of you, but the buildings, roads, power cables, drainage and signs that are located to the fringes of the course, and make it much more of a course venue simulation than a game. This is a woodland course, trees are in close proximity to the fairways and will often impact on your shot selections. The choice of planting is striking, and this is a generally a bright looking course with colourful foliage, a rare beast for links players, but not particularly autumnal in style, just beautiful to look at and packed full of excellent custom trees. At ground level is the abundance of texturing with loads of different shades and comprehensive blending, and with long dry grass to the edges of the deeper rough. This course features doglegs, bunkers and criss-crossing streams impacting on your distances, you really do have to think your way around here. It is a very immersive design, the whole feel of the course is of visual beauty, and at the end of the round is the added bonus of overlooking a superb lagoon panorama. This is a course packed full of little details, it looks extremely pretty, is somewhat unique too in its appearance and is so delightful to play.

7. The Belfry – Dark Horse Team                             

The Brabazon course at The Belfry is a British parkland course and was designed by Peter Allis and Dave Thomas. It is the host course for the annual Benson & Hedges European Tour event and the also hosts some dramatic Ryder Cups. The Dark Horse Team comprised famous designer names John Pineda, Eddie Schmidt, Kevin Fraser, Lars Rudbeck, John Dudis, Andrew Jones, Anders Bessermann and Dlunatic, and the team approach has certainly worked well. A superb parkland challenge with plenty of water hazards, a most famous drivable par 4 at the 10th, and a finishing hole which throws up a real nervy tee and approach shot. To play this course is a delight, and whilst this version is not overly tough, tweaking the conditions can truly yield a magnificent challenge. The parkland planting is consistent with the location, the wooden edging to the lakes and streams is excellent, and the 3 dimentional clubhouse, buildings and bridges are so accurate. Being english, this is one of my favourite courses in real life and is a little kinder and often more fun to play than many on the top list.


8. Bethpage Black – Robert Miller                            

Bethpage Black is host to the US Open and is a US woodland course ranked 43rd on the golf digest US list. This is a tough course to play at 7652 yards and a par 70 you will not find many others that test your long game quite so seriously. It looks superb in all areas, using great looking textures for the rough, abundant deep rough and burnt rough areas. The grass generally plays deep in true US majors fashion, and the planting is extensive using varying shades for a very realistic effect. Fairways are quite tight and prove a tough challenge, but the run off areas are usually generous and a shot is nearly always visible from the deep rough to the green, albeit often unreachable from the deeper grass. The trees are very nicely chosen, with good variety and blending well. Some of the views across the burnt rough are fantastic, the 7th and 17th tee shots were instant favourites. The whole feel of the design is quite amazing, with tee objects and 3d buildings well placed, and a superb clubhouse overlooking the course. Once you add in some amazingly good hole previews, and a wonderfully full US Open crowd, the tourney option offers quite a different experience from the natural one.

9. Whistling Straits – Robert Miller                        

Whistling Straits is a US coastal sand dunes course and is ranked at 22nd on the golf digest US list. It has everything you could wish for, a wild open landscape covered with dune bunkers, a coastal cliff edge location with all the visual drama this provides, and then it even manages to add in a lakeside hole and river creeks. Every element of this design is expertly covered and it is very dramatic visually. Whistling Straits features an amazing number of bunkers, most of which are never actually in play which is quite astonishing really, but this design doesn’t miss the chance to add the neat touches of wooden boarding planks and swirling sand drifts. Whistling Straits is fantastic in every way, and is terrifying to play. It grinds you down with relentless challenge and if you lose your confidence mid round it can be disastrous. Whistling Straits is as demanding as they come so you have to be in the right mood and it always leaves me worn out. However it is superb fun to play and is amazing to look at.

10. Pinehurst #2 – Robert Miller                              

Pinehurst #2 is a US pine forest course and home to the US Open, and ranked 28th on the golf digest US list. The fairways are surrounded by stunning pine trees underlaid with the fetching red tinge from the layered pine needles. It is well known for its the dome shaped greens which when playing fast make it one of the most difficult courses to play in and around the pin, your touch and precision must be spot on and your chipping game at its best. This remake of Pinehurst is simply immersive, the tee areas, houses and buildings ooze quality and the textures and blending are excellent. You will also find little extras like telegraph pylons, sprinkler heads, divots and wind machines at the greens. Playing the course is excellent, visually this a complete picture from every tee as you overlook the red pine areas and adjoining fairways. In design terms i believe this to be one of the great courses, it also gains extra value from being a well known majors venue, and whilst it does not offer loads of elevation or signature style holes, it just has the feeling of a complete course package which when played is greater than the sum of the individual holes. An excellent and classic design, and one of the all time greats.


11. Medinah #3 – John Pineda                                

Medinah No.3 is a close US woodland course highly rated course from the PGA Tour, placed at number 39th in the golf digest rankings, and host to the major USPGA Championships. This is a heavily wooded course, with fairways made to feel tighter than usual due to the close proximity of trees lining both sides. The tight fairways make tee shots fairly tricky, but when wayward you will often get a playable lie from the deep rough, as ground planting under the trees is sparce. Visually the course is very natural and realistic with good quality textures, a large variety of trees, and some very nicely raised greens surrounded with bunkers. The general course surroundings are also very good, with distance hole signs at each tee, and a very nicely laid out 3D clubhouse fronted by a putting green at the back of the 18th hole. The par 3’s here are especially nice, most featuring shots over water, with excellent lake edging evident and some nice plantings and bridges. It has lovely blending and deep shadows making the course look much smooth and more attractive. This course design gives you an enclosed woodland feel like no other design and therefore remains quite a unique course to play in the game. As such i felt compelled to cheat and add this one extra bonus course to the top list