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Ally Mcintosh

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Is 'The Loop' Tom Doak's masterpiece?
« on: August 30, 2022, 07:08:16 AM »
I ask the question having only seen a handful of his courses. But my rationale is as follows:


In essence, one of the major differences between Tom's designs and the generation that preceded him is detailing. Sure, he works with a different philosophy (firm, fast, fescue, width) and style (naturalism / minimalism) than the vast majority of that generation... But it is his mastery of the detailing in the build that truly separates him. A lot of those 80's / 90's / 00's designs by other architects almost seem lazy in the simplicity of their broad slopes and shapes by comparison, even if this is often a function of as-building to technical construction drawings on poor soil.


Through all the work I've seen from his team, the detailing never looks awkward or manufactured with Tom's designs. It is almost impossible to tell what was built and what was not at St. Patrick's for example. I can't say the same for other designers' work, even someone like Gil Hanse at Narin & Portnoo.


To detail eighteen holes so intricately whilst keeping everything looking natural with nothing out of place is a true art, especially when that detailing marries such strong playing strategies....

....However, to do this on a reversible 36 holes on a course playing from different angles is truly mind-blowing.

The Loop is spectacular: Restrained, utterly comfortable and confident in its own skin, great golf from start to finish. I have never been more impressed by a golf course. Ever. I mean that literally.
« Last Edit: August 31, 2022, 03:27:52 AM by Ally Mcintosh »

jeffwarne

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Re: Is 'The Loop' Tom Doak's masterpiece?
« Reply #1 on: August 30, 2022, 07:22:46 AM »


The Loop is spectacular: Restrained, utterly comfortable and confident in its own skin, great golf from start to finish. I have never been more impressed by a golf course. Ever. I mean that literally.


Wow.
That is high praise indeed-given what you've seen not only of Tom's work, but other courses as well.



"Let's slow the damned greens down a bit, not take the character out of them." Tom Doak
"Take their focus off the grass and put it squarely on interesting golf." Don Mahaffey

Sean_A

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Re: Is 'The Loop' Tom Doak's masterpiece?
« Reply #2 on: August 30, 2022, 09:07:22 AM »
I am unbelievably impressed by The Loop as an architectural achievement.  I was intentionally not looking around much on the first day and it paid off with me recognising probably half the greens for the approaches the second day. The Loop is an easy place for me to like because of restrained bunkering and width. Didn't lose a ball in two days. I can't say either course is brilliant, but as a well executed concept the whole of The Loop is astonishing. I understand if Tom would want it ranked as total package.

Ciao
New plays planned for 2022: Erewash, Malone, Cruit Island & St Pats

Robin_Hiseman

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Re: Is 'The Loop' Tom Doak's masterpiece?
« Reply #3 on: August 30, 2022, 09:56:30 AM »
Playing with Ally and Sean last week, The Loop was the pivot around which our whole trip was planned.


It is an astonishing feat of land planning. There isn't a square yard that feels committed to one routing over the other. We played Black, followed by Red and one could easily believe these are two separate courses adjoining one another. The simplicity of the teeing grounds, marked only by a single small flag, was beautifully understated. They disappear as soon as the flag is removed, becoming a subtle, flat section of fairway.


It is the green designs and surrounds contouring that works magnificently well. Getting them to work from multiple angles is genius. I'd watched the NLU guys suffer hard around the greens, but we didn't struggle like they did. We suspect it was less firm than it can be. One thing that did resonate quite literally is the 'Thump'. I've never heard ground make that kind of noise before. It echoes like a drum.


The one annoyance is the rowdy retail golfers and the loud music blaring from the carts. Everyone is having a good time, but the constant beats were grating.


Our host Eric has played The Loop more than 300 times and continues to find it fascinating and novel. After one play each way I can see that there was still much to discover in the complex green designs.


It takes a very confident architect to be so restrained with the featuring. Nothing is overt or showy and as Sean says, there are few individual stand out moments. Unlike Sean, I did turn around a few times to preview what was coming the next day and I felt that was part of the fun of it. I was expecting to be impressed, but I came away amazed.
'22: Al Mouj; Cleeve, Painswick, Minch Old, Weybrook, Astbury, Silloth, Balfron, Strathendrick, Archerfield, Roxburghe, Stoneham, Woburn Marquess, JCB, Pyrford, Hayling, Clandon, Wentworth (East), Ashbourne, East Sussex West, Dunes, Arcadia Bluffs South, Crystal Downs, The Loop, Shoreacres, Chicago

Thomas Dai

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Re: Is 'The Loop' Tom Doak's masterpiece?
« Reply #4 on: August 30, 2022, 11:49:05 AM »
Thanks for posting these comments.
The more I read the more curious and fascinated I am about the idea of reversible courses. And where they could potentially take the game in the future.
Atb

Ally Mcintosh

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Re: Is 'The Loop' Tom Doak's masterpiece?
« Reply #5 on: August 30, 2022, 06:34:48 PM »
To follow on from Robin’s comments, I was firstly amazed at how all 36 of the greens worked, both visually and from a playing standpoint.


One of the clever things I noticed was that there was often bold mounding used in the approach areas to create chutes and strategy from one direction that then - looked at from side on - tied in to the green complex to make it appear much more grade level from the other direction (be it 90, 120 or 150 degrees). This masked - aesthetically - the mostly pushed up nature of the green sites and blended them in to the landscape.


The second thing that surprised me was the absolute absence of any visible tees or erroneous features from the “other” routing. I was expecting to see some tees hidden in the rough / forest that were only used one way round and were superfluous to the other. But each and every teeing ground was completely hidden as subtle pads within the confines of the fairways and short grasses, impossible to highlight as not in use when playing the opposite way.


All of that aside, the course was to my tastes in subtlety, landscape and shaping in any case. I would be delighted to play at either one of the eighteens every day of the week. To think that there are two different courses completely hidden within the one is quite wonderful.

EDIT: One thing not yet mentioned is that this is NOT a flat course. There is some really good macro-contouring in the land, another aspect that adds to the quality, makes each routing very different and must have made the job of creating 36 workable holes even more difficult.

« Last Edit: August 30, 2022, 06:40:11 PM by Ally Mcintosh »

Eric_Terhorst

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Re: Is 'The Loop' Tom Doak's masterpiece?
« Reply #6 on: August 30, 2022, 08:45:21 PM »
I had the good fortune to meet up with Ally, Robin and Sean and play tour guide while watching the genius of the Loop dawn on them--delightful.


Ally, the first time I played Pacific Dunes I thought it was a masterpiece, and then for me Ballyneal almost surpassed PD the first time I played it.  So if you haven't played those, I recommend trips to Oregon and Colorado before you make up your mind about which one you think is the creme de la creme.  If the Loop still comes out on top for you,  no argument from me.


I certainly second your thoughts on how well the greens work in both directions.  I actually think of them as just 18, in part because it's simpler to process, and in part because I've hit enough shots through greens that I stand over the ball and think "dammit, I made bogey from here yesterday." ;D   And for example, if you play in "The Dual" on the 31st of May, July, or August, you play both the Red and the Black in one day and see the same pins in the morning and afternoon rounds.  On those days you might see the same putt twice while marveling that this morning you putted for a birdie 2 and in the afternoon you've got the same tester for a bogey 5!


Each routing works so well from tee to green and has such a diversity of challenges and features that some days you think the Black is your favorite, and some days it's the Red.  The old cliche applies--"just came off 18, and can't wait to play it again."








Kalen Braley

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Re: Is 'The Loop' Tom Doak's masterpiece?
« Reply #7 on: August 30, 2022, 08:51:01 PM »
Eric,


I would throw Rock Creek in that conversation with Ballyneal and Pac Dunes having played all 3.  All different, but all nothing short of terrific, they would be 1a, 1b, and 1c in no particular order. If the loop is better than all of those, then that is something amazing for sure.

Thomas Dai

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Re: Is 'The Loop' Tom Doak's masterpiece?
« Reply #8 on: August 31, 2022, 03:40:53 AM »
A mischievous thought. I wonder if one day someone will build a reversible course but not tell anyone it’s reversible. And then on opening day the tee markers are in different spots and the players are suddenly playing the course the other-way-round to what they expected!
Atb


PS - a question, is it likely feasible to route a course such that’s playable in three or even four different directions?




Ally Mcintosh

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Re: Is 'The Loop' Tom Doak's masterpiece?
« Reply #9 on: August 31, 2022, 04:23:40 AM »
Eric,


Great to meet you and thanks for talking us round The Loop on both days.


(& Kalen),


I have no doubt that Pacific Dunes, Ballyneal and Rock Creek are all excellent to great courses. Hence that is why I am asking the question in the title of those that have played a lot of Tom’s courses.


But at the same time, I have a sneaking suspicion that those courses would just meet my - albeit very high - expectations.


As a feat of architecture, The Loop surpassed what I was hoping for. And I was hoping for a lot. As Robin stated above, the whole trip was hinged around seeing The Loop (and that despite the fact we also had three World Top 50 courses on the agenda). And it still far exceeded what I was expecting.


I’m not sure there’s another architect working today who could have pulled it off with such panache. The confidence shown in all the design decisions won the day. Most architects would struggle to either dial back the boldness / features or at the other end of the spectrum, be so restrained that they created something bland.


It may not be the best course in the world (but then again, why not?) but I stand by what I said above. I have never been more impressed.


I’d be interested to hear from others who have played The Loop along with more than a handful of Tom’s other courses.

Tom_Doak

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Re: Is 'The Loop' Tom Doak's masterpiece?
« Reply #10 on: August 31, 2022, 06:43:01 AM »
A mischievous thought. I wonder if one day someone will build a reversible course but not tell anyone it’s reversible. And then on opening day the tee markers are in different spots and the players are suddenly playing the course the other-way-round to what they expected!



I actually told our client that’s what I wanted to do with The Loop - not tell anyone it was going to be reversible until Opening Day - mostly because I didn’t want to have to answer questions about it for two years.  It’s much better to demonstrate than to explain!


Alas, he only managed to keep the secret for a couple of weeks.


To pull it off, I think you’d have to not tell the client, but you’d be running the risk that he didn’t want to use it that way.


Incidentally, the Dual was my idea (although I didn’t come up with the name).  I suggested it to keep things square on the calendar, so that golfers would know by the date (odd or even) whether they were playing Black or Red.

Eric_Terhorst

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Re: Is 'The Loop' Tom Doak's masterpiece?
« Reply #11 on: August 31, 2022, 09:13:18 AM »
Eric,


I would throw Rock Creek in that conversation with Ballyneal and Pac Dunes having played all 3.  All different, but all nothing short of terrific, they would be 1a, 1b, and 1c in no particular order. If the loop is better than all of those, then that is something amazing for sure.


Kalen,


I gather Ally is making the argument that The Loop is "a work of outstanding artistry, skill, or workmanship" (Google defn. of "masterpiece").  Works for me!


There certainly have been plenty of pointless arguments around here concerning whether this course is better than that one, and I plead guilty of that by bringing up the other courses.  We don't have to pick one.  Maybe The Loop would be 1d on your list?

Erik J. Barzeski

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Re: Is 'The Loop' Tom Doak's masterpiece?
« Reply #12 on: August 31, 2022, 09:19:52 AM »
Incidentally, the Dual was my idea (although I didn’t come up with the name).  I suggested it to keep things square on the calendar, so that golfers would know by the date (odd or even) whether they were playing Black or Red.
That's smart.
Erik J. Barzeski @iacas
Author, Lowest Score Wins, and Lifetime Student of the Game

Charlie Ray

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Re: Is 'The Loop' Tom Doak's masterpiece?
« Reply #13 on: August 31, 2022, 11:07:51 AM »
Last Summer I got around both the Black and the Red twice.  My second round on the black, as a single with the last tee time of the day, afforded me time to spend chipping and studying each green complex.  Black 6/Red 12 Green is unlike anything I’ve seen.  I also have a soft spot for Black 11/Red 7 Green.  (I would imagine that Black 17/Red 2 receives the most ink/opinions.)
The presentation of the course is what initially surprised me the most.  I catch myself daydreaming that my local courses were blessed with such fast and firm characteristics. 
However, the actions of my playing partners were the most surprising.  With no usual framing of tee boxes and secondary rough boundaries of the fairways the cart traffic left a negative impression on me.  I realize this has nothing to do with Doak’s design, but it was an odd sight to see carts parked next to (and on) greens; often I would notice carts parked directly on the green approach for tomorrow’s routing.  Aesthetically this was not pleasing. 
The only other nitpicking I would offer is that the green to tee walks/transition were burdensome.  I believe this is the case because when after holing out, the next corridor/fairway begins immediately; its right there in front of you (because this is the approach for the next days routing).  I had a desire to peg the tee right there next to the hole (like the original rules of golf) and thus begin playing, but those walks to the little tee marker often left me thinking the routing could be more ‘compressed.’  (I had initially thought that the tees would be 90 degrees from the previous green, but it seemed the slight majority were 60 yards down the fairway, albeit slightly skewed to one edge of the fairway)
Overall, it’s a unique design with no other peers (Silvies Golf in Oregon seems to be a different concept); and therefore, I have a difficult time labeling it a masterpiece.  Its hard to label a one of one as a masterpiece.  (I do think green complexes are exceptional)

Kalen Braley

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Re: Is 'The Loop' Tom Doak's masterpiece?
« Reply #14 on: August 31, 2022, 11:16:51 AM »
Ally & Erik,

After reading your latest comments, we may be talking about two different concepts here.

1)  The Loop - Its greatness in terms of devising and implementing a one-of-a-kind reversible course that plays fantastic.  A unique feat of outstanding golf course architecture from top to bottom.

VS

2)  Courses like Pac Dunes, RC, or Ballyneal where one is evaluating the overall quality of the golf course using say the Doak Scale.  As I see it they are all solid 9s and I'm not seen anyone claim The loop is a 9 or a 10 for that matter, but perhaps that's your case.

Ally Mcintosh

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Re: Is 'The Loop' Tom Doak's masterpiece?
« Reply #15 on: August 31, 2022, 11:33:39 AM »
Kalen,


Semi-correct. When evaluating The Loop, I am looking at the complexity of the architecture that Tom and team needed to deal with (now that I am reading reviews which I had previously avoided, I see Tom mentions that the routing wasn’t particularly hard which possibly reinforces my point about the detail).


However, the course (either way around) is completely to my tastes: Restrained, clever architecture over subtle really firm land without too much ostentatious “show”. It is quite possible that I would also prefer the course (as opposed to the architecture) more than Ballyneal or Rock Creek CC… who knows? Does anyone else?


Charlie,


I agree that the walks are noticeable in places but only - as you correctly state - because you are walking over short grass fairway. They are not long. The only one I slightly questioned was the Red 4 / Black 15 corridor which houses two par-3’s when the separation between the two greens seemed more suited to a short par-4 or maybe two.

Eric_Terhorst

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Re: Is 'The Loop' Tom Doak's masterpiece?
« Reply #16 on: August 31, 2022, 06:21:18 PM »
Kalen,


I note that Tom and Ran modestly assigned The Loop a Doak 7 in the last version of The Confidential Guide, whereas Rock Creek, Pacific Dunes, and Ballyneal get 9s or 10s from the Guide reviewers.  I'd say The Loop is a Doak 8, "worth a special trip to see," evidenced (at least) by Ally, Robin and Sean building a trip around it all the way from the UK, and your suggestion that it's a one of a kind course that plays fantastic.  I would give the latter compliment to Ballyneal too. 


Charlie and Ally,


Note that #4R is one of the better and fun-to-play Redans you'll find.  If the tee was closer to #3R, or off to the right of that green it might be super-long Redan or a par 4 with a Redan-ish green--or you could build a different green!  Maybe you'll play the back tee on each next time?  My experience is the placement of that corridor is about ideal--both par 3s work well in the flow of both routes.


Charlie, note Tom's assignment was to build a walking-only course.  The carts came ~2yrs after opening, unfortunately.  You didn't say when you visited, but in 2021 the resort got GPS-enabled carts that can be programmed with "restricted areas" that helps keep yahoos away from the greens.  Not pure walking, but better than carts with no restrictions.
« Last Edit: August 31, 2022, 09:01:29 PM by Eric_Terhorst »

Cliff Hamm

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Re: Is 'The Loop' Tom Doak's masterpiece?
« Reply #17 on: August 31, 2022, 07:03:56 PM »
Played the Loop last year.  Absolutely loved it and thought it was pure genius.  Have played numerous courses in Ireland and thought the turf played as close to Ireland as I have played in the US.


Would have never been able to play it if not for carts.  Spoke w the starter about allowing carts and he related that the owner asked the super if they could try carts and see if the turf would hold up.  They did and it did. 


I believe that golf should be a walking sport.  But for those that condemn their use realize that u too will hopefully age. I am 71 w an awful back - arthritis, spinal stenosis, herniated disc.  I am no longer able to walk and play golf.


I only wish that more of the destination courses - Bandon, Cabot, Sand Valley would allow carts.  Yes, you can get a cart  w a medical certificate, but often only for yourself.  Must take a caddie, making the cost prohibitive, especially since my wife also requires a cart (two knee replacements).


If the Loop can allow carts w out significant turf damage why can't others?  I would propose allowing carts for those over 60, no questions asked...










« Last Edit: August 31, 2022, 07:06:38 PM by Cliff Hamm »

Kyle Harris

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Re: Is 'The Loop' Tom Doak's masterpiece?
« Reply #18 on: August 31, 2022, 07:21:01 PM »
If the Loop can allow carts w out significant turf damage why can't others?


These kinds of questions often come with major red flags because they are based in the false premise that one site’s ability to do something means that every site has that ability. “Why can’t…” inherently puts the responder on the defensive.


Every site is different and this includes management, budget, growing season length, turf varieties, design, and usage/traffic.


What percentage of rounds at The Loop are walking v. riding? How does that change in September and October?
http://kylewharris.com

Constantly blamed by 8-handicaps for their 7 missed 12-footers each round.

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jeffwarne

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Re: Is 'The Loop' Tom Doak's masterpiece?
« Reply #19 on: August 31, 2022, 08:06:39 PM »
Played the Loop last year.  Absolutely loved it and thought it was pure genius.  Have played numerous courses in Ireland and thought the turf played as close to Ireland as I have played in the US.


Would have never been able to play it if not for carts.  Spoke w the starter about allowing carts and he related that the owner asked the super if they could try carts and see if the turf would hold up.  They did and it did. 


I believe that golf should be a walking sport.  But for those that condemn their use realize that u too will hopefully age. I am 71 w an awful back - arthritis, spinal stenosis, herniated disc.  I am no longer able to walk and play golf.


I only wish that more of the destination courses - Bandon, Cabot, Sand Valley would allow carts.  Yes, you can get a cart  w a medical certificate, but often only for yourself.  Must take a caddie, making the cost prohibitive, especially since my wife also requires a cart (two knee replacements).


If the Loop can allow carts w out significant turf damage why can't others?  I would propose allowing carts for those over 60, no questions asked...


Cliff, you bring up very valid questions.
As a professional at a walking only course, I deal with this daily-especially during outings.
When you say a caddie with a cart is "cost prohibitive" is that because they charge you for the cart as well?
I can make an argument for no fee for the cart, especially as they will be very limited anyway, and therefore a minimal revenue source, as well as something being provided for medical reasons.
But surely you would expect to pay for a caddie at a walking only facility?



"Let's slow the damned greens down a bit, not take the character out of them." Tom Doak
"Take their focus off the grass and put it squarely on interesting golf." Don Mahaffey

Joe Hancock

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Re: Is 'The Loop' Tom Doak's masterpiece?
« Reply #20 on: August 31, 2022, 08:23:54 PM »
The nature of Tom’s design at The Loop almost required major areas of turf around tees and greens. None of the courses at Bandon have the same kind of turf areas around tees and greens. Trails is very tight in places, with the only way for golfers to get to the path to the next tee requires walking across the green. To accommodate carts, there would have to be a major paradigm shift in where they have vegetation other than mown turf and they would have to do major cart path work. As Kyle says, the ability of one site and design to work well with carts doesn’t mean that other sites are equally able.
" What the hell is the point of architecture and excellence in design if a "clever" set up trumps it all?" Peter Pallotta, June 21, 2016

"People aren't picking a side of the fairway off a tee because of a randomly internally contoured green ."  jeffwarne, February 24, 2017

Cliff Hamm

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Re: Is 'The Loop' Tom Doak's masterpiece?
« Reply #21 on: August 31, 2022, 08:28:43 PM »
I am relying on my memory which is probably not a good thing. I recall being told by one of the destination courses that you must get a single cart with a caddy and pay for the cart and the caddy. So in my instance it would require payment for two carts and two caddies.


Also, A caddy is not typically required at the destination courses if you are walking.  Yet, if you are ‘disabled’ you must have a caddy with the cart….That being said I do not want to hijack Ally’s thread…

Eric_Terhorst

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Re: Is 'The Loop' Tom Doak's masterpiece?
« Reply #22 on: August 31, 2022, 08:59:25 PM »
Cliff,


The starter's suggestion that damage from cart traffic on The Loop is not "significant" is probably an accurate characterization.  However, there is discernible damage.  Particularly when there's a dry period, cart tracks show up in the fescue fairways and golfers are admonished to steer carts to the center of the fairways, because that's where irrigation water is applied.  And there are some points where damage can't be avoided.  The other day I noticed that between the 17B tee and fairway, which happens to be where a good 2R second shot can be placed, there's a pinch point that unavoidably gets a lot of cart traffic.  It's noticeably different from areas that don't get so much traffic, and I would guess that's a sore spot for the capable staff that maintain the course. 


It's great that you were able to play the course and enjoyed it. 


Kyle,


My observation (don't have the data) is the season-round percentage of cart players doesn't vary too much, and it's in the range of 85-95%.  September is a high-volume month, October not so much.  The season this year is May 5 - Oct 16. 













Ronald Montesano

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Re: Is 'The Loop' Tom Doak's masterpiece?
« Reply #23 on: August 31, 2022, 09:54:08 PM »
Played The Loop once in each direction. Played the original course once.


Would return and play The Loop twenty times (10x each direction) against zero for the original course. The original course holds no interest for me, when contrasted with The Loop.
Maybe for 2022
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~

Kyle Harris

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Re: Is 'The Loop' Tom Doak's masterpiece?
« Reply #24 on: September 01, 2022, 03:51:28 AM »
Played The Loop once in each direction. Played the original course once.


Would return and play The Loop twenty times (10x each direction) against zero for the original course. The original course holds no interest for me, when contrasted with The Loop.


Wow. A bit harsh!


The Weiskopf course is the perfect complement to The Loop.
http://kylewharris.com

Constantly blamed by 8-handicaps for their 7 missed 12-footers each round.

Thank you for changing the font of your posts. It makes them easier to scroll past.

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