In this end-of-year edition of Fourball, I’m joined by James Savage, Alex Perry and Steve Carroll to discuss their favourite courses from 2018 and the ones they still need to get out and play in the new year…
What’s the best course you played in 2018?
James: I thoroughly enjoyed playing Yorkshire’s top three courses in Ganton, Alwoodley and Moortown. And it was great to pay second visits to both Monifieth and Trump International in Aberdeen. But nothing stirs the soul like a good seaside links and, although I found Royal Portrush a bit inconsistent, the good bits are truly memorable. I’m always more fond of a course which has a handful of amazing holes than one which has 18 very good ones.
Steve: I’ve not played too many courses that have appeared in world 100 lists so it would have to be Bethpage Black. Alex and I spent a rather memorable few hours there just before the US Open at Shinnecock and I can confirm that the famous warning sign before the 1st tee is very accurate. It is indeed “extremely difficult”. But it’s also brilliant.
Incredible experience playing the Black course at @BethpageGolf today with @AlexPerryNCG. It is indeed extremely difficult. Managed to go through the par 3s in level. The rest of my card will remain a mystery. A fabulous day. pic.twitter.com/1jNQwgGizN
— Steve Carroll (@SteveCarrollNCG) June 14, 2018
Alex: Goodness me, where to start? Courses I played for the first time this year that blew me away (literally, in some cases) are Bethpage Black, Budersand, Montrose, Peterhead, Duff House Royal, Le Golf National, Sherwood Forest and Seaton Carew. But I also played Royal North Devon and that’s my favourite course in the world, so…
My verdict: Any time I visit Royal Dornoch that’s most likely to answer this question and that’s the case this year. I spent two days there in June, the sun shone, we had two rounds on the Championship and one on the Struie and it was incredible. I’ll never tire of the walk to from the 2nd green to the 3rd tee, the 9th tee, the 14th, Foxy, and playing an approach from the top of the 17th fairway. Off the course it’s equally as good.
Still can’t think of anywhere I would rather play more than Royal Dornoch.. pic.twitter.com/0oBo8pLBIN
— Mark Townsend (@MarkTownsendNCG) May 23, 2018
What’s the most memorable round you played in 2018?
Steve: In a brief break between the Beast from the East and Storm Emma, the snow cleared and I took a very relieved group of 23 on my captain’s weekend to Formby in March. We kicked off with Formby Ladies on the Saturday. We got sunburned, all our putts seemed to drop, and in that linksy paradise I shot 76. The course was tremendous fun, the company superb, and it will forever remain as a wonderfully warm memory in my increasingly fuzzy brain.
James: I scored 44 points in a competition at Hillsborough and played the best golf of my career so far. (Career? That doesn’t sound right but I’ll go with it.) It was nice to play for once where each aspect of my game was working well and I had a reasonable idea of what my ball was doing on every shot. I celebrated victory only to find out later in the evening that some bandit had racked up 48 points.
Alex: I’m going to put a soppy answer. Now we live five hours apart, I don’t get to play with my best mate very often. When I was back in the motherland in the summer we snuck out for 18 at Bude on a glorious day on the Cornish coast. My happy place.
My verdict: If by most memorable you mean most successful – I’m talking to myself now – then I’d go with a blustery Seaton Carew in June. I only discovered Seaton this time last year and I love it; all very normal, bouncy and the sight of the smooth, linksy 18th green is tremendous when you drive in. People talk about the industrial surrounds but I don’t know why that would bother you.
But why successful, Mark? Well, I won a HUGE competition there and now have a new set of irons in the bag for my troubles.
What course is on your wish-list for 2019?
Steve: Every year I say Turnberry and the Old Course and every year I am disappointed so I’m going to try and be a bit more realistic. I know it splits opinion among Open lovers but I’ve always liked Hoylake and walking round it when Tiger and Rory won there only served to whet my appetite to play it. Tee times are available, the green fee is reasonable for a championship venue, and it’s time to get it done.
James: Obviously Augusta, Pebble or Spyglass would be nice but let’s be realistic. There are so many great links courses in Scotland that I’m yet to visit but I’m more irked when I haven’t played a good course that’s quite close to home. So Sherwood Forest is on my list for 2019 as people have told me it’s as good if not better than Hollinwell. If that’s true, I can’t wait to check it out.
Alex: The Northern Ireland links are still notable in their absence from my spreadsheet, so yet again I will say those. And there are still plenty of places in Devon and Cornwall I haven’t got to yet, which is a crime really given I lived there for the first 18 years of my life.
My verdict: Here we go again, Royal County Down for the 12th year running. A small part of me dies every time I have to listen to friends and colleagues stick her down as their No. 1 before explaining in great detail what makes it so brilliant.