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Fun Golf Courses Finally Getting Their Due

What Makes a Course Fun?“Let’s have some fun out here! This game’s fun, OK? Fun (goshdarnit).”

That’s Kevin Costner as Crash Davis in Bull Durham, only he didn’t say goshdarnit. And though he was talking about baseball, the line popped into my head while reading Golf Digest’s new ranking of America’s Most Fun Golf Courses.

This game is fun, goshdarnit. And it’s about time somebody recognized that it’s supposed to be.

We’re all so impressed by island greens and inescapable bunkers and slope ratings as high as the Himalayas, we forget what the game is all about. Or that it’s a game at all.

Golf Digest, which earlier this year brought forth America’s 75 Toughest Courses, finally said nuts to all that by ranking courses based on these ideals:

· Length does not equal fun.

· Hard is overrated.

· Walking is more fun than riding.

· A welcoming attitude beats a snooty vibe.

Naturally, the panelists then proceeded to award the No. 1 spot to Pebble Beach, one of the hardest, priciest and slowest rounds in golf. I suppose Pebble’s scenery, history and seventh hole – surely the world’s most fun par 3 – made up for all that.

For the record, I’ve played three of the top 25: No. 11 Linville Golf Club (my first Donald Ross experience and deserving of the spot), No. 20 Coeur d’Alene Resort (stunningly beautiful, but not so fun in a windy, 45° drizzle) and No. 24 World Woods—Pine Barrens (another excellent choice).

So kudos to Golf Digest for the terrific idea. Now here’s my take on the things that make a golf more fun than a barrel of monkeys.

An inviting opening tee shot: I’m all for strategy, but please don’t take driver out of my hands right off the bat.

Great variety: Keep me on my toes with short and long holes, doglegs left and right, and a handful of tight spots balanced with some wide-open spaces.

Proximity to a body of water, mountains, or other scenic feature: Natural splendor is a big part of golf’s appeal.

Quirkiness: A blind shot or two? A green with an 8-foot hump in the middle? Back-to-back par 3s? Railroad tracks running 10 feet from a fairway? Yes, yes, yes and yes.

Quick (but not too quick) greens: Shaggy putting surfaces can suck the fun out of any course. Then again, too many upscale courses shave the greens till they’re faster than a rabbit with a hound on its tail. Get ’em stimping at a Sinatra-smooth 10 and most golfers are pleased as punch.

Brisk pace of play: I don’t mind waiting a minute or two for the fairway to clear. Any more than that and the fun quotient shrinks by the second.

Not having to hunt for lost balls: Can I get a hallelujah?

At least one super-short hole of each par: Every golf course should have a par 3 where you can hit wedge, a drivable par 4 and a reachable par 5. Preferably a couple of the latter.

Opportunities to hit run-up shots: Open-fronted greens give everyone a chance.

A forced carry or two: A daunting shot over water lets you know you’re alive.

Tightly mowed chipping areas: Bump-and-run or flop? Putt it? Chip with a hybrid? When it comes to greenside options, I’m definitely pro-choice.

Reliable on-course beverage service: I don’t care what you look like – you can be a dude, as far as I’m concerned – just show up every few holes to keep me hydrated and/or liquored up.

A memorable finishing hole, with bonus points for a clubhouse overlooking the green: Nothing beats a funky risk-reward par 5 to cap a round. If there’s a small gallery adding a little pressure, so much the better.

Fun or Nightmare?

Par 4 – 18th at New England Country Club – Dream or Nightmare?

A 19th hole with a solid beer selection: Every round should end with a flavorful toast. Cheers!

Daniel MitchellDaniel Mitchell is a golf writer and Golf-Newz.com contributor who lives in Jupiter, Fla., a few miles from Tiger Woods as the crow flies but worlds away in every other respect. An avid golfer since age 12, Mitchell carries a (shaky) single-digit handicap, investing far more time in his dogs than his swing.

You can read his regular musings at a-gamegolfblog.blogspot.com

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